Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
I am both shocked and appalled that it is October and I have read painfully few books this year due to my studies, going to Iceland and generally having little energy for reading and few books on my shelves that I am eager to read (this makes me desperately sad). That being said, however, there are a couple of books I have re-read this year which do ultimately count but I will not be reviewing – those books being The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. As an avid and passionate Tolkein fan and due to the sheer popularity of the series, I don’t see the point of reviewing these books. I could write novels expressing my love of Tolkein’s works.
I adored Wind in the Willows as a child as I had been introduced to the beautiful little animated version of the book in gentle watercolours. I remember it vividly because I watched it so many times and had an overwhelming fondness for Mr Toad, voiced by Rik Mayall in this particular adaptation. It was only whilst reading the book that I looked into who voiced the characters of Ratty, Badger and Moley and was surprised to discover they were all men I admire now as an adult – Rik Mayall, as mentioned, as well as Michael Palin and Michael Gambon and Alan Bennett.
The book follows the adventures of several anthropomorphised animals and opens with Moley, whom, whilst spring cleaning, gets a sudden urge to go outside and enjoy himself instead of being stuck in his little burrow. Overwhelmed by the beauty of Spring, Moley wanders as if in a dream with many exclamations of ‘Oh my’ until he comes across the river and spies a Water Rat who invites him into his boat and into his little home by the river. Moley stays with Rat for quite some time and they become firm friends. Whilst living with Ratty, Moley also meets the Mr Toad, an over-wealthy ignorant little animal but undeniably kind. After getting sucked into an excursion with a horse and caravan, Toad’s current fad. Whilst on this little adventure, however, a motorcar races up the road behind them, scaring the horse and the caravan ends up in a ditch. Although all unharmed by the experience, Toad is instantly in love with Motorcars (Poop poop) which later become his dangerous new obsession. After this little adventure and during the encroach of winter, Moley decides he wants to meet the elusive Mr Badger, who he has heard so much about, who lives in the Wild Wood. But Moley goes alone and unarmed and not all animals are as kind and welcoming as Ratty…
The animated series I watched as a child was virtually exactly the same as the book which made me very happy -when reading any speech by one of the whimsical characters, I could hear echoes of the actors from the series ringing in my head and although this was a wonderful form of nostalgia, it made me particularly sad when I read anything said by Mr Toad due to Rik Mayall’s recent death. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful return to my childhood and the… for lack of a better word ‘Englishness’ of the book and the characters was simply delightful. Each animal and their personality akin to well-spoken Victorian Gentleman: ‘I Say!’ which is a delight. It is also a wonderful exploration of the British Countryside – Grahame’s descriptions of the natural landscape are vivid, beautiful, tangible and it paints a stunning image of Pastoral England and a clear admiration of nature in all her beauty.
I would highly recommend this book, it takes no time at all to read and is a fantastic book to give to children or read to children. I’m an adult and still thoroughly enjoyed it. A delectable little blast from the past.