First published in 1908, The Wind in the Willows is an enduring children’s story that follows the adventures and misadventures of a series of creatures living in the English countryside. It’s been developed multiple times for stage, radio and screen over the years, and remains a popular family entertainment in all its formats.
Mole, Rat, Badger and Toad discover there’s more to life outside of their own immediate existence, becoming fast friends in the process of learning the rights and wrongs of Edwardian society. Toad, in particular, needs to learn responsibility and he ultimately does so with the help of his frustrated friends after a number of troublesome incidents that land him in prison.
Alongside the main novel are a series of short stories which are included in this comprehensive reading by Chris MacDonnell, whose light English accent adds even more character to this charming tale.
MacDonnell adds enough characterisation to make each personality distinct and believable, but his real skill is in the sense of excitement and wonder he brings to Grahame’s book, allowing the listener to feel a part of the adventures. His reading of the prose is excellent. It’s not too slow and it captures both the era and the wonder that are so essential to the story’s success.
There are many audiobook readings of The Wind in the Willows around, particularly now that the story is in the public domain but, dramatizations aside, this is one of the better versions I’ve heard. Like the Mole, you’re sure to be “bewitched, entranced, (and) fascinated.”