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Children's, Classics

‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame

‘Really, Rat,’ said the Mole quite pettishly, ‘I think we’ve had enough of this folly. Who ever heard of a doormat telling anyone anything? They simply don’t do it. They are not that sort at all. Doormats know their place.’

The indelible outline of Rat, Mole, Toad and Badger is sketched so keenly on my childhood memory that it was indeed a surprise to discover I’d never actually read it. It is a tale that every child knows in some form or another, though I suspect it was first delivered to me in the form of the 1983 stop-motion animation film.

For those who either didn’t have the pleasure of this text as a child, or have simply forgotten the plot, ‘The Wind in the Willows’ is a classic children’s story of four animals living on and around a river bank. Through the eyes of Mole, Rat, Toad and Badger we are taken on a series of adventures including the theft of a motor-car, jail, attacks by weasels and the age-old change of seasons. At its heart, ‘The Wind in the Willows’ is a pastoral classic, taking the reader on a rip-roaring Edwardian adventure before getting you home in time for tea and crumpets.

Its language is nostalgic with almost a fragile beauty. Grahame invokes home, hearth and friendship at every turn, creating a net of safety around the reader through the repetition of the setting’s solidity.

It seemed a place where heroes could fitly feast after victory, where weary harvesters could line up in scores along the table and keep their Harvest Home with mirth and song, or where two or three friends of simple tastes could sit about as they pleased and eat and smoke and talk in comfort and contentment.

In addition, the river itself flows throughout the novel, reminding us of nature’s constancy despite the seasonal change.

Yet, please do not be fooled into thinking this is a dull book. The warm promise of home is merely the glue for a larger narrative. Pastoral England in the form of the river bank comes into conflict with modernity through the entrance of the motor-car. It comes streaming into the animals’ quiet lives, ‘immense, breath-snatching, passionate’, and soon leads the excitable and slightly foolish Toad down a path of destructive obsession. The animals’ attempts to deal with Toad’s ‘painful attack’ of techy-love are both quaint and humourous, and the narrative finishes neatly with a swash-buckling battle to take back Toad’s ancestral home from the scheming weasels.

I immensely enjoyed this book. Grahame’s writing radiates warmth, contentment and security. In an increasingly bleak economy, where students like myself are told we shall be worse off than our parents, it holds out a reassuring hand of child-like comfort and amusement. It is in fact the ‘cosiest’ book I’ve ever read. It’s simply not happy unless you are reading it with a smoking jacket and slippers.

Click to find this book on Amazon

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About thethiessenreview

Amateur reviewer. Book obsessive. Cocktail drinker.

Discussion

11 thoughts on “‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame

  1. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the movie you linked to but never actually read the book! I know we have a copy somewhere, perhaps I’ll read it aloud to the boys (we’re currently working our way through all things Richard Scarry).

    Posted by kindism | October 19, 2012, 3:28 PM
  2. I have never read the book nor seen the movie but do know it as a classic. I had been looking for a new read and where I live has suddenly turn blustery and very rainy overnight – this will be perfect with a fire over the weekend….. Cheers!

    Posted by Raiana Golden | October 19, 2012, 3:45 PM
  3. That last line is a perfect way to describe the conditions for reading it. I loved this book too, I love the way nature comes to the fore and technology is seen as ruinous. I can still remember reading this book in bed at nights in winter, I always looked forward to getting the day over with so I could read and savour every moment of it. I now wish I would have read this tomorrow, as Monday’s always need a cheerful start. So I shall be back tomorrow to reread!

    Posted by StetotheJ | October 21, 2012, 5:39 PM
  4. Aw, I’m going to have to read this book — it sounds enchanting. As a child my experience with the story was the 1949 Walt Disney short and going on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland. 🙂

    Posted by joon*ann | October 23, 2012, 4:21 PM
  5. One of my favourite books. Lovely review 🙂

    Posted by o (@o_delaisse) | October 27, 2012, 9:39 PM

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