Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame



Title: The Wind in the Willows
Author: Kenneth Grahame
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1908
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Project Gutenberg (Free Ebook)
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

"The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame is one of these stories that I had previously never got around to reading. In addition, I also seemed to have missed watching any of the various TV shows created around the story as well. Therefore, when I signed up to Year of the Fantasy Classic Challenge I decided that I would finally read this classic and actually find out what it really was about.

The story follows the various meandering and pleasant adventures of several anthropomorphized animals such as the Mole, Water Rat, Toad and Badger. The adventures are mainly set in an idyllic English countryside and range from an innocent trip down the river in a row boat to the fears of being lost in the woods on a snowy night. I found the whole thing to basically be a celebration of the simple life of the country that could be lived by well to do bachelors in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Now, I am going to be honest and say that this book isn't fast paced, action packed or full of exciting thrills although there are still elements of each within the novel which I found contrasted well with the more leisurely sections. The books main feature though is its rather enjoyable cozy charm as the reader follows the camaraderie of the characters and their fundamental acceptance of each other. It doesn't delve into any heavy good vs. evil moments, it more highlights some of the profound moments that can be had by simple characters just trying to live their lives.

I found all four of the main characters to be quite interesting individuals with a basic jovial nature and whilst they have been anthropomorphised they did seem to retain some of their intrinsic animal characteristics. The supporting characters however did seem a little bit weaker and a little bit more generic at times but this didn't really detract from the overall story as the antics of the main characters created some really amusing moments, especially those centred on the Toad.

The novel itself is defined as a children's book and there are some lessons for children that have been integrated into the novel, from the issues of being self-centred as seen by the actions of the Toad, to the danger of wondering off alone as shown by the Mole getting lost in the woods. However, I did I find that the writing itself is actually quite complex for a children's book which could cause some children a bit of trouble. Adults however will find the vocabulary to be rich and varied with an easy to follow sentence structure. I would say that this is probably more a book for an adult to read to a child than for them to read themselves.

There were a couple of minor issues I had with the novel, the first of which was that some the chapters seemed to go off on a tangent from the overall story being told. This just meant that the novel at times could feel like a collection of short stories rather than a single piece of fiction. The second issue is that whilst the novel did contain some interesting lessons for children, some aspects weren't something that a parent would necessarily want a child to learn and think was okay. For example there is a part when the main four beat other characters with sticks, and then there is Toad who blatantly keeps breaking the law and then escapes from prison without any real punishment but a telling off by his friends. It didn't really bother me as an adult reader and I would probably read it to my own children but I suspect some parents may not feel the same.

Overall this was quite a heart-warming and cozy novel about friendship and loyalty that really helps to remove the reader from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I believe that this novel really works well as calming bedtime read that should appeal to both adults and children. Personally, I am glad that I finally read this book and look forward to reading it to my children once they are old enough to really understand its vocabulary and message.

Challenges Book Counts Towards:
Speculative Fiction Challenge
Year of the Fantasy Classic Challenge