Book reviews


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame had me from page one, when Mole said, “Hang spring-cleaning!” and went off to see something of the world. My thoughts exactly.

The Wind in the Willows is possibly the most delightful book I have ever been lucky enough to read. I don’t know why I never read this as a child, honestly, I must have been deprived, but it only occurred to me to remedy this oversight after I read Fiction Fan’s review of an illustrated and abridged edition of the story (as per the link below, and make sure you check out the gorgeous pictures).

Fiction Fan was very disappointed that whole chapters had been removed from the edition she read, so when I found an old ex-school library copy of the book in an op shop, I snapped it up, and started reading.

The story starts with Mole, who is fed up with spring-cleaning. He very sensibly actions his thoughts, and leaves his underground home and cleaning for the bright sunlight above, and sets off to see the world. Very soon after, he arrives at the river, and is, in Kenneth Grahame’s words, “bewitched, entranced, fascinated” by the river. (So was I, except that I was bewitched, entranced, and fascinated by the story, the characters and the life lessons).

At the river, Mole meets the Water Rat*, known as Rat, or more affectionately, as Ratty, and the two become very dear friends. Both Mole and Rat have fine characters, and are exactly the sort of people who most of us should aspire to be. Rat is clever and Mole is diligent, and both are good and honest and kind. Mole ends up staying with Ratty in his home near the river, and is introduced to a whole new way of life.

Along the way Rat introduces Mole to his friends, including Mr Toad of Toad Hall and Badger. Badger is respected by all, but Mr Toad is silly, full of himself and not above exaggerating his adventures to anyone who will listen. Everything bad that happens in this story is directly caused by Mr Toad’s selfish and inconsiderate behaviour, which includes car theft, dangerous driving, breaking out of prison, selling other people’s property – this reads more like a television show aimed at men who like that sort of thing, rather than a children’s story that is over 100 years old.

Despite Mr Toad’s faults, Ratty, Mole and Badger stand by their friend, and actively help Mr Toad out of his difficulties.

Mole and Rat’s friendship was special too. Rat saved Mole from a frightening adventure in the Wild Wood, and when Ratty came down with a case of wander-lust, when everyone else they knew seemed to be heading off to somewhere exotic or other, Mole was able to remind Ratty of the things he loved at home.

The highlight of the book for me was discovering how serious Ratty, Mole, Mr Toad and Badger are about food. They regularly picnic, and eat together and there is nothing so important that it can’t wait until after they have eaten. They eat pies, and hot buttered toast, and biscuits, and sardines, and potted lobster, and cheese, and cold beef and pickles, and stews made of “partridges, and pheasants, and chickens, and hares, and rabbits, and peahens, and guinea-fowls, and one or two other things.” I’ve rarely wanted to be a character in a book so badly.

I l0ved The Wind in the Willows, and suspect that future re-reads will fill me with as much joy as my first experience of this story.

*I once worked in a first-floor office overlooking the Yarra River in Melbourne, which is known for its enormous water rats (the river, not my old office). One day, I heard a squeal from the stairwell, and a few seconds later a terrified plumber burst through my door, and told me there was a giant rat beneath the stairs.

I looked down from the safety of the landing and saw the monster for myself, and I swear, the thing was massive, the size of a middle-sized wet dog. I phoned the Pest Control people, who assured me they would come to our rescue within the hour, then settled back to my work, interrupted from time-to-time by shouts and yells from other big, burly tradesmen who had not expected to open the door to this frightening beast.

Finally, there was a scream to end all screams, one that went through the entire neighbourhood, the sound of which just about turned my knees to jelly. Seconds later a terrified electrician burst fell into the office and once he could speak again, told me the rat ran out the open door as he opened it, right across his feet, and disappeared down a storm water drain.






Comments on: "The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame" (11)

  1. I am so glad that you enjoyed this book, and your story about the real-life water rat made me laugh! Quite the adventure!

    I strongly encourage you to try and find an edition of Wind in the Willows that was illustrated by Tasha Tudor. Her pictures are absolutely amazing – her artistic style complements the story perfectly.

    And, if you’re interested, a fellow by the name of William Harwood wrote three sequels to Wind in the Willows. At first I thought this was bordering on sacrilege, but they are actually done very, very well. Harwood said he was inspired because he never quite believed Grahame’s assertion that Toad was a reformed Toad!

    • Wow, more Rat and Mole and Mr Toad! I had no idea there were sequels. I don’t think Mr Toad reformed either, now that you mention it. He would have become passionate about something else eventually, and things would have gone pear-shaped.
      I’ll look out for the illustrated edition, thanks for mentioning it 🙂

      • haha yes the sequels weren’t written by the original author, which I am usually quite leery about, but in this case I thought they were very well done – written more as a loving tribute rather than an effort to capitalize on someone else’s work.

      • “a loving tribute” is a wonderful recommendation, will definitely look out for these. I’m always getting sucked into reading Jane Austen wannabe novels, should know better. I’m sure you’re right, authors are capitalising on other people’s works rather than doing their best with their own creation.

      • Oh, I’m a huge sucker for P&P retellings, and I can’t even explain why. I think it’s because those are more like the butterfly effect for me, like I love the way that they can change one moment in the story and suddenly everything changes!

        But lots of other times I’m horrified by what people do, most recently Sophie Hannah’s attempt to resurrect Hercule Poirot has been genuinely dreadful, I think.

      • Actually, your comment reminded me of Captain Wentworth’s Diary, which was Persuasion from ‘his’ point of view. I loved it!
        Haven’t read Sophie Hannah’s effort, might give it a miss.

      • Was the Wentworth book written by Amanda Grange?? I’ve always meant to read her books – she’s written a whole series of books from the male perspective of Austen’s stories. I read the Darcy one a while back, I believe.

      • Yes it was by Amanda Grange. Was the Darcy one any good? I can’t remember reading it, but might have. They all blend in after a while.

      • I honestly can’t remember because it’s been quite a long while since I read it – which probably means it was decent, since the terrible ones are the ones that seem to stick out! 😀

  2. Aww, I’m so thrilled you enjoyed it so much! Isn’t it just fantastic? You can see now why I got so annoyed about them missing a chapter out! Haha! Love your rat story – gotta say, much though I love Ratty, I wouldn’t actually want to meet him! Not unless he brought a picnic along anyway…

    • I truly loved this book, so grateful I read your review and added it to the list. It’s the kind of book that makes me want to do better (bite my tongue when I’m feeling snappy, etc)…long may the effects last!

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