There are 1.2 million human-sized anthropomorphic rabbits in the UK, in Jasper Fforde’s new book, The Constant Rabbit.
I have been a fan of Jasper Fforde’s since reading The Eyre Affair so I was super excited to receive an Advanced Review Copy of his latest book, The Constant Rabbit. This is a stand-alone novel so you don’t have to have read any of his previous books to enjoy this.
Thank you to NetGalley and Hodder and Stoughton for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.
About the book
The Constant Rabbit is set in 2020 in an alternate universe, similar to our own. On 12th August 1965, a Spontaneous Anthropomorphising Event turned some of the rabbit population into humanoids, along with some gueina pigs, foxes and weasels. These human-like rabbits have their own culture, religion and traditions, with many living in their own warrens. Some get passes to live outside of these colonies and move into human towns and villages throughout the UK. While some humans are happy to welcome rabbits into their neighbourhood, some aren’t — including the Prime Minister, Nigel Smethwick, who plans to relocate all rabbits to the MegaWarren by force.
The story follows Peter Knox from the village of Much Hemlock in Herefordshire. He is a Spotter for the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce (sort of like the police, but for rabbits), identifying whether the rabbit arrested matches the rabbit who committed the crime. Humans struggle to identify individual rabbits so he is invaluable in making sure that the correct rabbit is convicted.
The world that Jasper has created in this book is incredible. There are so many details (as you can probably gather from just my short synopsis and intro), with small facts at the start of each chapter as well as footnotes giving additional details. Because of this it took me a little while to ‘get into it’ and understand the world I was in, and it’s certainly one I will be re-reading as I’m certain there is a lot that I’ve missed.
As with all of Jasper’s books, The Constant Rabbit compares and contrasts his alternative history with our present. It is full of witty one-liners as well as longer speeches. The footnotes (as with Terry Pratchett’s books) are must-reads. There is a lot of social commentary and satire on our present day — for example, budget cuts mean that the local library is only open for six minutes, which is timed and enforced with fines.
However, it’s not all jokes and it has a darker side to it too. There is an underlying theme around racism, privilege and tolerance of those who are different to ourselves. It also talks a lot about how silence is acquiescence. While the public is generally not ‘leporiphobic’, they have allowed many inhumane laws to pass.
One of my favourite lines in the book is from Peter Knox:
Although I’d never consciously discriminated against rabbits, read a single issue of The Actual Truth or considered myself leporiphobic in the least — I was. As a young man I’d laughed at and told anti-rabbit jokes and I never once challenged leporiphobic view when I heard them. And although I’d disapproved of encroaching anti-rabbit legislation I’d done nothing as their rights were slowly eroded. My words and thoughts had never progressed to positive actions. No rallies, no angry letters, no funds to RabSAg, nothing. …My most pressing emotion right now was not a sense of righteous indignation, frustration at the unfairness of my situation or even a courageous sense of a justice that a fight needed to be fought and won. No, what I truly felt was a sense of deep and inexcusable shame.
The rabbits are generally law-abiding — yet their rights continue to be taken away. It is a well-written commentary on our world. It’s a ‘call to action’ for people to take a stand against fascism, injustice and intolerance, wherever we see it.
The story itself is compelling, with lots of twists and turns that kept me intrigued. I really liked the characters of Peter and his new rabbit neighbours, Connie and Doc. The rabbits are really interesting and I enjoyed learning more about their traditions, such as duelling with pistols. At times I was terrified for the characters and their fate. The incredible ending was also totally unexpected and had me in tears.
The Constant Rabbit is a fantastic read. It’s incredibly original and clever, with the perfect blend of humour and darker themes. It’s one that I will be re-reading. As always with Jasper Fforde’s works, I think fans of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams will particularly enjoy this.
The blurb for The Constant Rabbit
There are 1.2 million human-sized rabbits living in the UK.
They can walk, talk and drive cars, the result of an Inexplicable Anthropomorphising Event fifty-five years ago.
And a family of rabbits is about to move into Much Hemlock, a cosy little village where life revolves around summer fetes, jam-making, gossipy corner stores, and the oh-so-important Best Kept Village awards.
No sooner have the rabbits arrived than the villagers decide they must depart. But Mrs Constance Rabbit is made of sterner stuff, and her family are behind her. Unusually, so are their neighbours, long-time residents Peter Knox and his daughter Pippa, who soon find that you can be a friend to rabbits or humans, but not both.
With a blossoming romance, acute cultural differences, enforced rehoming to a MegaWarren in Wales, and the full power of the ruling United Kingdom Anti Rabbit Party against them, Peter and Pippa are about to question everything they’d ever thought about their friends, their nation, and their species.
It’ll take a rabbit to teach a human humanity…
Jasper Fforde is the critically acclaimed author of The Last Dragonslayer series: The Last Dragonslayer, The Song of the Quarkbeast and The Eye of Zoltar, Shades of Grey, the Nursery Crime books: The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear and the Thursday Next novels: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays is Missing and The Woman Who Died a Lot.
After giving up a varied career in the film world, he now lives and writes in Wales, and has a passion for aviation.