The BookBrowse Review

Published September 16, 2020

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Contents

In This Edition of
The BookBrowse Review

Highlighting indicates debut books

Editor's Introduction
Reviews
Hardcovers Paperbacks
First Impressions
Latest Author Interviews
Recommended for Book Clubs
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Publishing Soon

Novels


Historical Fiction


Short Stories/Essays


Poetry


Mysteries


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Romance


Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Speculative, Alt. History


Biography/Memoir


History, Science & Current Affairs


Travel & Adventure


Young Adults

Novels


Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Speculative, Alt. History


Extras
  • Blog:
    What To Do When Members Come to Book Club Without Reading the Book?
  • Wordplay:
    L N Take I C
  • Book Giveaway:
    Memorial Drive
    by Natasha Trethewey
Book Jacket

The Constant Rabbit
by Jasper Fforde
29 Sep 2020
320 pages
Publisher: Viking
ISBN-13: 9780593296523
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Speculative, Alt. History
Critics:
Readers:
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A new stand-alone novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Early Riser and the Thursday Next series.

England, 2022. There are 1.2 million human-size rabbits living in the UK. They can walk, talk, drive cars, and they like to read Voltaire, the result of an Inexplicable Anthropomorphizing Event fifty-five years before.

A family of rabbits is about to move into Much Hemlock, a cozy little village in Middle England 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, citing their propensity to burrow and breed, and their shameless levels of veganism. But Mrs Constance Rabbit is made of sterner stuff, and her and her family decide they are to stay. Unusually, their neighbors--longtime resident Peter Knox and his daughter, Pippa--decide to stand with them...and soon discover 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 had ever thought about their friends, their nation, and their species.

An inimitable blend of satire, fantasy, and thriller, The Constant Rabbit is the latest dazzlingly original foray into Jasper Fforde's ever-astonishing creative genius.

"[W]onderfully absurd...An astonishingly well-crafted work of social and political satire." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Amid a rapid-fire barrage of literary allusions, Fforde displays his signature quick wit on a furious tour through modern British right-wing politics. Playful, biting, and timely, this is a must-read." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The message can be a bit heavy-handed but is still wrapped in the author's trademark sense of wry humor and sarcastic wit. Recommended for readers who have already fallen in love with this author, and libraries where his works are popular." - Library Journal

"The Constant Rabbit is Jasper Fforde's most chilling and realistic book yet...Fun and slightly bonkers...Fforde's love of wordplay, cultural references and silliness shines through in every sentence." - The Guardian

Write your own review

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Cloggie Downunder
Smart and inventive, another thought-provoking and entertaining read.
The Constant Rabbit is a novel by Welsh author, Jasper Fforde. The 2020 United Kingdom that Fforde describes to the reader is very much an alternate one where, fifty-five years earlier, a Spontaneous Anthropomorphic Event transformed a selection of animals into human-sized, talking, walking, thinking creatures.

In the British Isles, the most numerous are now rabbits, who prove to be peaceable and hard-working. It takes a good deal of world-building to make a tale like this work, but anyone who has read his books knows that this is something at which Fforde is highly skilled.

Even though Peter Knox works at the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce detecting rabbits attempting identity fraud, he’s not anti-rabbit like some of his colleagues, who are just a shade off hominid supremacists. But his favourable treatment of a doe rabbit borrower at the village library has been noted by the right-wing village elders. He recognises Constance Rabbit from their casual friendship at college decades-earlier, before rabbits were banned.

The ruling UK Anti-Rabbit Party is pressing for their “humane” solution, Rehoming the rabbits from their established colonies to a MegaWarren in Wales, and their campaign to subvert the Rabbit Underground sees a very reluctant Peter plucked from his office job into active Ops, tracking down a suspected rabbit operative. His last experience on Ops had ended very badly.

To unsettle him even further, the vacant house next door is suddenly occupied by Major Clifford and Mrs Constance Rabbit and their two children. While Peter tries to deal with his re-emerging attraction to his new neighbour, his scary boss wants him to infiltrate, suspecting connections to the Rabbit Underground, while the village council wants the rabbits out of Much Hemlock.

What follows for Peter is a wild ride that includes being challenged to a duel, a graffitied garage door, getting drunk on dandelion brandy, being charged with murder, physical mutilation, prison time, wearing a wire, and slicing a lot of cucumbers. Of prison, he says: “In a turnabout that no-one expected after the crash of 2008, the second-largest group in prison after rabbits was now sociopathic investment bankers, corrupt representatives of ratings companies and dodgy corporate accountants.”

Readers from Goulburn NSW might be quite delighted to find that their Big Merino also exists in Fforde’s world, if by a different origin. As always, Fforde manages to include a generous helping of over-the-top English-sounding place names, typically useless government departments with all their annoyingly abbreviated titles, plenty of poli-speak and silly character names.

Fforde gives the reader a heavily satirical social commentary that takes aim at propaganda, conspiracy theories, xenophobia, right-wing politics and detention centres, to name but a few. He even lets a character muse that satire might “provoke a few guffaws but only low to middling outrage – but is couped with more talk and no action. A sort of … empty cleverness.” Smart and inventive, another thought-provoking and entertaining read.

Jasper Fforde was born in London on January 11, 1961. His father was a prominent economist, while his mother did charity work and was a passionate reader. Fforde and his four siblings were raised in London and Wales. At the age of twelve Fforde was sent to Dartington Hall School, a progressive coeducational boarding school near Totnes, Devon, which he attended until his graduation in 1979.

As a child, he shared his mother's love of reading, and by the age of eleven, had become quite interested in film and television. While the young Fforde liked to watch Monty Python, he was particularly influenced by a commercial he saw for milk starring actor Roger Moore. It showed what happened behind the scenes on a production set, and this commercial inspired Fforde's aspirations as a movie director.

Working as an odd-job man in 1981, he was painting and decorating at a producer's home when he mentioned his desire to break into the film industry. The producer gave him work making beverages and photocopying while a movie of "The Pirates of Penzance" was being filmed. Fforde got to meet Angela Lansbury, Linda Ronstadt, and Kevin Kline. He was hooked. He spent his early movie career as a focus puller (a member of the film crew responsible for keeping the camera properly focused), and for nineteen years held a variety of posts on such movies as "Goldeneye," "The Mask of Zorro" and "Entrapment." Harboring a desire to tell his own stories rather than help other people tell theirs, Fforde started writing in 1990, and spent ten years secretly penning novel after novel as he strove to find a style of his own that was a no-mans-land somewhere between the warring factions of Literary and Absurd.

After receiving 76 rejection letters from publishers, Fforde's first novel The Eyre Affair was taken on by Hodder & Stoughton and published in July 2001. It introduced literary detective Thursday Next, whose job includes spotting forgeries of Shakespeare's lost plays, mending holes in narrative plotlines, and rescuing characters that have been kidnapped from literary masterpieces. The novel garnered dozens of effusive reviews, and received high praise from the press, booksellers and readers throughout the UK. In the US The Eyre Affair was also an instant hit, entering the New York Times Bestseller List in its first week of publication.

Fforde's motivation for writing The Eyre Affair and its sequels was born out of his own appreciation of the classics. He told James Macgowan of the Ottawa Citizen, "I love literature. I love stories, actually. The point of using the classics in this kind of playful reverence is that I always felt the classics had become stuffy through being academized-is that what the word is? Jane Eyre is a study text, and it should never have been made a study text, as has Wuthering Heights and Shakespeare. I think people are in danger of seeing them as only that, when they aren't, they're just great stories."

Till 2012, so far he has written seven books for the "Thursday Next" series. He has worked on another series that he calls "Nursery Crime", featuring Jack Spratt of The Nursery Crime Division, this series has two installments so far, The Big Over Easy (2005) and The Fourth Bear (2006). Shades of Grey (2009), in which a fragmented society struggle to survive in a color-obsessed post-apocalyptic landscape, is his eighth book and the start of a third series with the second book, 7 Things To Do Before You Die in Talgarth due in 2016.

His standalone novel, Early Riser was published in 2016 in the UK, and 2019 in the USA.

In his spare time, Fforde loves to fly his 1937 DeHavilland biplane over the hills of Wales, where he lives with his wife, Mari Roberts, and their four children.

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