The cloudland of boyhood
almost wholly negative reviews – started as a bedtime story for a child. Grahame crafted it for his son Alastair, known as Mouse.
After Mouse was sent away with a nanny or to school, Grahame carried on writing the tale in letters to his son.
Dennison’s prose can be clumsy, yet I flew through this book, eager to read more of the insights that connect Grahame’s lonely bookish life with his artistic vision, one rooted in boyhood innocence and a kind of pantheistic conservatism. He does seem too harsh on Grahame’s wife, Elspeth, who he thinks was partly responsible for Grahame’s unhappiness. What seems closer to the truth is that, as Dennison implies, Grahame was more comfortable in nature and with books than with people.
That Mouse died aged 20 from a suspected suicide only compounds the sadness of Grahame’s life; it is one of history’s ironies that his tale of the animals who live on the lively riverbank and in The Wild Wood has brought so much joy to children down the years.