Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Willows at Christmas

Back in the 90s William Horwood wrote three pastiche books that featured the best loved characters from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. I really enjoyed them. Each book saw these characters mature until by the third book I suspected that Horwood would reboot the series by introducing a next generation of River Bank characters. This didn't happen. Three years passed before he was to revisit Mr. Toad, Mr. Mole and company. When first published after such a lengthy hiatus The Willows at Christmas flew swiftly under my radar, until now. In the hope of having some pleasingly seasonal reading material over the festive period I ordered a copy. Horwood has rolled back time to not long after K.Grahame's classic and prequelling his own trilogy.
Mr. Mole is dismayed to discover that the spirit of Christmas has been lost by the riverbankers and the nearby village. He sets out to try to rediscover it. The early scenes with Mole investigating the causes of the lack of festivity are the best. Miss Bugle's sad little Christmas witnessed by the ever lovable Mole almost had me reaching for the handkerchief and for a mind boggling moment had me hoping for a little inter-species romance. The later sections of the book slide more into the sorts of situations that Mr. Toad's foolishness often resulted in the original. The threat of incarceration and execution should surely be familiar to Mr. Toad. Patrick Benson's rustic little line drawings and beautiful coloured plates complement the writing perfectly. Very good but never really replaces the original book in your heart but for those wishing to spend time with such beloved characters for a little bit longer you really can't go far wrong with this book and the three that preceded it.

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