27. The Wind in the Willows

Another old favorite, read during a drowsy, overcast summer afternoon by the lake. The copy here was given to my husband’s aunt by her aunt long ago. It has been some time since I read it, and I had forgotten some of the later adventures of Toad. Along with Tolkien, this book early on formed my concept of the English landscape and its inhabitants, at least the rural parts thereof.

There isn’t a whiff of irony to be had among its earnest, loving descriptions of kindly landscapes, simple pleasures (largely involving food), and the virtues of a modest, respectably idle sort of life. (It need hardly be said that the book has a narrow perspective and is outrageously dated in a number of ways.) A homebody myself, I can appreciate the deep satisfaction taken in comfortable rooms and well-stocked pantries, but “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” and “Wayfarers All” are my favorite chapters.

However, while I am prepared to accept forest gods and animals possessed of waistcoats, rowboats, garden statues, and all manner of other paraphernalia, I am eternally perplexed by the existence of Rat’s miniature armory.

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