Book: The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
Genre: Children’s fiction
Where I got it: Librivox audio download
Length: 6 hrs 55 mins (191 pages)
Briefly, it’s a classic, featuring four animals, Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger, and following their adventures along the banks of the river.
Comments: I read this book as a child, then lent my copy to a girl who never gave it back to me, and I’ve been cheesed off about that ever since. My mother encouraged me to borrow the book from the library if I wanted to read it again, but to me that wasn’t the point – I wanted my own copy back. Maybe listening to an audio version was my way of re-visiting the book without abandoning my principle!
Listening to it now I find myself wondering what on earth I made of the book as a child. For this is not an “ordinary” book about animals – these are types or models of humans, who dress in clothes, have houses like humans do, and drive cars. Nature here is not “red in tooth and claw”. There are certain moral points being made – boastful Toad meets his downfall, friendship and loyalty are to be emulated – but was there another agenda? If so, what was it? Perhaps I’m too far removed from the world of childhood, and from actual children, to be able to see how a child would receive this. But my nieces and nephews today live in such a different world than that of the early 20th century that I doubt it would make much sense to them. I also doubt that they’d have the vocabulary skills to cope with this book, which is a shame.
There are several recordings of this book available on Librivox. I considered the playing lengths, and chose the longest one, because the most common problem with Librivox volunteers, in my experience, is that they read too fast and gabble. So I downloaded the version read by Adrian Praetzellis, and it is marvelous. He assigns a particular accent to each animal, sustaining it well throughout the book, and it really adds to the enjoyment (even if Badger is terribly like one of the characters from ‘The Archers’).
Challenges: (1) Read Scotland [Grahame was Scottish, though this book is “awfully” English!]; (2) Full House challenge, for the category “Book with an animal in it”; (3) Audiobook challenge.