The cloud­land of boy­hood

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Front Page -

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.

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