Mole, now older, is still the staunch but less active friend of the Water Rat. While Mole’s Nephew is now established on the Riverbank, this story sees the appearance of Young Rat, a competent and self-effacing waterman like the Rat himself, who joins Grandson and Master Toad as the younger generation of Riverbankers as Badger and Mister Toad, and the Wild Wood itself pass away.
This episode, based on the original Wind in the Willows, brings to a fitting conclusion the extended trials and escapades of Mister Toad, the quiet and constant friendship between Mole and Ratty, and the persevering help and companionship of Otter and Badger. Very skillfully, throughout the series, the author has left each of the main characters a younger self, someone of the next generation to whom to pass on the baton.
The Riverbankers are, for the most part, eternal bachelors, or so it seems. They are Edwardian gentlemen, content in their quiet companionship, happy with their simple pleasures (except for Toad who’s happy with his expensive pleasures). This author has caught the very essence of the characters created by Kenneth Grahame and somehow extended them without disturbing the picture. This book sees them nearing the end of their days, yet still ready to put up a fight… and to lose. For me, that last point is almost the most admirable of the book and possibly of the series. This story is about fighting, and knowing when to stop fighting and to start moving on.
Appealing and readable as the book is, it would not be quite the same without the illustrations by Patrick Benson. From the poetic front cover, to the images of Mister Toad in his many moods, to the sight of Nephew and Young Rat looking out of Toad’s enormous windows at Christmas, they all bring the characters and places to life.
Tin Golden is a computer programmer living in London. He is also the editor of goodtoread.org.