Friday, October 5, 2012

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

It’s been a very long time since I’ve enjoyed a book this much.  I’m not sure why The Wind in the Willows evoked such emotion in me.  I laughed out loud at Toad’s antics.  And I shed tears over the heroism and sacrificial love demonstrated by the four animals:  Stalwart Badger, Faithful Mole, Gentle and Wise “Ratty”, and Arrogant (but Repentant) Toad.

I savored the gorgeous prose about the pleasures of home, the delights of good food, the wonders of nature and the treasures of friendship.    Graham succeeds in telling a sweet and tender story without making it saccharine.

Don’t be put off by the controversial seventh chapter where the animals worship Pan. (Some children’s editions leave it out since it’s not essential to the story.)  This book is a must-read for every lover of great literature and of beautiful writing.  I underlined more passages than I can count.  Some choice quotes:

Never in his life had he seen a river before – this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again.  All was a-shake and a-shiver – glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble.  The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated.  By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea. (p.3)

Mole’s view of winter:  He was glad that he liked the country undecorated, hard, and stripped of its finery.  He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple.  (p. 36)

The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the sky, and in one particular quarter it showed black against a silvery climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew.  At last, over the rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; and once more they began to see surfaces – meadows wide-spread, and quiet gardens, and the river itself from bank to bank, all softly disclosed, all washed clean of mystery and terror, all radiant again as by day, but with a difference that was tremendous.  Their old haunts greeted them again in other raiment, as if they had slipped away and put on this pure new apparel and come quietly back, smiling as they shyly waited to see if they would be recognized again under it.  Fastening their boat to a willow, the friends landed in the silent, silver kingdom. (p. 102)

Absolutely the most satisfying book I’ve read in ages.

1 comment:

Carol in Oregon said...

I love this book too. I'm sorry I missed this post when it was originally published.

We have a Christmas Tree ornament of Toad that I got the year our family was swept up by the story. It makes me smile each time I put it up.

Thank you for reminding me about the joys of friendship and messing about in a boat.