53. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (1908)

What can I say about this book? Surely everyone in the whole world loves The Wind in the Willows. The reason it’s not in the top five is because, like Alice in Wonderland, it hasn’t influenced my own work in any way, nor has it particularly informed my adult life except as a beacon of beauty and sanity. Reading it as a child, I took it totally at face value, and part of me still believes that animals act and think in this way. Reading it every couple of years since then I’ve never tired of it, amazed every time by the clarity of Grahame’s prose and the magic way in which he conveys emotion and sense of place – the two things are inseparable. Obviously I worship Toad, and love Ratty and Badger, but the one I have always overidentified with is the timid, myopic Mole who gets swept up in an adventure far bigger than him. The scene in which he realises he’s near his own home is without doubt the most moving piece of prose ever written in English.

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Filed under My top 100 novels

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