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Wild Wood Paperback – 1 May 2014
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Top customer reviews
If Wind In the Willows is a view from the river, then this book is a view from the wood. The strength of this version comes from the simple believability of the humanised characters and the voice of Baxter then main narrator.
Some of the tricks of the original remain – such has the (unacknowledged) change in size of the animals depending on need. In the original Toad becomes a washer-women and deals with ‘gypsies’ and similar things happen in the new version.
What is really wonderful about this book is the way that both the original characters and plot lines remain intact and only motivation and purpose change. We don’t have to un-learn anything from the original for the new version to make sense.
And this I think leads to the only issue I have with the book – I really do think you need at least a working knowledge of the plot of Wind in Willows to see how wonderful this book itself is. Which, I suppose leads to the recommendation, that you should read both of them!
Grahame's fearsome stoats, weasels and ferrets are depicted here with empathy for their struggles to survive in an uncaring world. They mobilise, they are full of revolutionary fervour, they plan the grand coup...but in the end, things are much as they were, albeit slightly better for some.
There are wonderful touches of laugh-out-loud humour - the rabble-rousing stoat Boddington is 'peculiarly yellow, a little lacking in body, extremely bitter, but one of the best'. Toad's fine wines and beers have gloriously funny names. It is delightful, tongue-in-cheek stuff and Willie Rushton's illustrations complement it perfectly. If your spirits need lifting, this is the book for you. If you're already uplifted, read it anyway - it's a gem.
The story is told by an elderly ferret named Baxter as he remembers the days of Brotherhood Hall - or Toad Hall as it was more usually known - and as probably the only one left alive who could recall the tales described by Kenneth Grahame, his memories are a source of important social history. The tales of the ferrets, stoats and weasels who seek social justice are gripping and the 'famous five' characters from The Wind in the Willows play a peripheral role as this is not their tale.
There’s no escaping the fact that it’s an apt commentary on our present world of divisions between rich and poor, in which money is the prime determinant but saying that makes it sound like some sort of revisionist tract. Well, even if it is (and it’s not), it’s also enormous fun, a joy, a tale full of beautifully realised characters with whom you want to spend lots of time. It has the charm of Grahame’s original, but with added warmth, humour, and a narrator we’d all like to have as a friend. Do yourself a favour, read it.