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By Jefferson on 11-03-11
A Comical, Sublime, Poignant, Charming Classic
Every second and every word of Anne Flosik’s reading of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows were a pure pleasure to listen to. If I wasn’t laughing at the incorrigible Toad’s absurd, selfish, reckless, and yet somehow heroic antics, I was shutting my eyes to imagine and savor the warm friendship between Rat and Mole and the rich descriptions of the different seasons of the natural world around the River. The novel achieves great poignancy when Mole misses his home and when Rat hears the call of the south, and sublime beauty when the friends see and forget the Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
I like the ambiguous nature of the animals, who obey the “etiquette” of the changing seasons according to their animal natures, use paws, live in holes, and are aware of their differences from human beings, and yet who also wear clothes, eat human foods, and equip their holes with comfortable human furnishings. And just what is their size? If they are the naturally sized smallish animals (like any rodents or toads) they sometimes seem to be (like the seafaring rat from Constantinople), how could a field mouse go out shopping for Christmas feast supplies and come back laden with a pound of this and a pound of that and how could Toad crash stolen motorcars, disguise himself as a washerwoman, and ride a stolen horse? This blurring of naturalism and fantasy is one of the delightful pleasures of The Wind in the Willows.
Is The Wind in the Willows a children’s book? Hmmm. I suspect that (as with the Alice books) adults may enjoy it more than children, though the Toad chapters should make every reader laugh. The book may be read critically for its conservative views on class and gender, but I treasure its humor, beauty, wonder, warmth, nature, and art. And Anne Flosik enhances all those virtues perfectly with her husky and measured voice and appealing wit and emotion.
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