Saturday, 17 August 2013

Book Review: Down The Rabbit Hole

Author: Juan Pablo Villalobos
Series: -
UK Publisher: -
Published: 2010
Format: eBook

Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants and the odd corrupt politician or two.

Upon picking this up I wasn't too sure what it was about; all that I knew was that it was on the kindle daily deal for 99p, and that was enough to make me pick it up after hearing Jean from Bookish Thoughts speak about it on her YouTube channel, coincidentally posted on the same day. 

The plot line definitely threw me at first - you are shown the world through the 7 year old eyes of Tochtli, who seems to be living in a fantasy world of zoo animal pets, rooms full of gems and his collection of marvellous hats. It isn't until this fantastical way of thinking doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon that you realise, this isn't a child's imagination but a child's real life situation in the middle of a drug dealing family. 

You generally wouldn't think twice about seeing a film or reading a book about drugs and drug dealers, as for the most part they star an adult part which for some reason doesn't seem strange to us as we watch it. However, seeing it from a 7 year olds perspective is extremely shocking; to have a child witness the acts of violence and betrayal surrounding the scene is not something that I would think anyone would want their prospective child to grow up around, and this to me seems to be the main motive of the story.

Tochtli, having grown up in this bad environment, has been severely corrupted and is quite a self proclaimed precocious child as he knows a lot of things that other boys of his age wouldn't even have the knowledge to imagine. This leads me to think about the idea of nature versus nurture; would Tochtli have been the same if he hadn't grown up in this setting? Would he have had different beliefs and ideals? Or is there a capacity for evil in your genes when you are born? These are questions that I don't believe anyone will truly know the answers to, but this book definitely brings those questions to light and makes you think about them more.

Upon the completion of this book, I was a bit dumbfounded as to how to respond and how to judge it; for the first time in my life I didn't have an initial gut reaction to a book, which is good in itself as it means that the book truly did affect me and it provoked some real thought. I'm still not entirely sure what I think of it, but from what I can deduce now, it wasn't so much about the plot line as it was about human nature and seeing things from a different perspective, which doesn't necessarily make it a good read, but definitely makes it an interesting one.


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