Book review: The Real Kenneth Grahame, by Elisabeth Galvin

The story of the man behind the Edwardian children's classic, The Wind in the Willows could be told in a number of different ways. On the one hand, it is the tale of an incredibly talented man, a huge success as both a freelance writer and in his day job at the Bank of England who not only, by all accounts, provided excellent company to everyone he encountered, be they old or young but who somehow never lost that sense of what it was like to be a child, enabling him, quite magically, in middle-age, to create one of the greatest children's books ever written.
But, on the other hand, it is a very sad story indeed. It is the tale of a man who never recovered from the trauma of his mother's death during his childhood. This tragedy, coupled with the shock of his alcoholic father's decision to completely abandon his young family, arguably stunted Kenneth Grahame's development, leaving him permanently frozen in a juvenile state: sexually confused, unable to be a successful husband and a tragic failure as a father.
Elizabeth Galvin's account of the life of the man who created Ratty, Moley, Badger and Toad of Toad Hall brings Grahame's world vividly to life.
Published by: White Owl.

The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by Chris Hallam

This was long listed for the CreativeWritingMatters Flash Fiction competition in 2012. All entries had to be exactly 250 words long, excluding the title.

Many children have enjoyed the story of Peter Pan. Toby enjoyed it so much that in 1905 we vowed never to grow up at all.

“That boy is so stubborn,” his father laughed. “We should be grateful he didn’t decide to learn to fly!”

But he was less amused when five years later, Toby remained to all appearances twelve years old while his two younger brothers grew taller than him.

“Hello young Rupert! My! What a fine young gentleman you are becoming,” his grandfather, the Lord Clovis declared on a rare visit.

“That’s Toby, Papa,” his father admitted. “His growth has not been all it ought to be. Rupert is talking to Miss Evesham by the conservatory”.

The war came. Two of his brothers joined up immediately. The recruiting sergeant was baffled. “I can take boys of perhaps fourteen sir. But this boy looks no more than twelve.”

“He is nineteen!” his father, now Lord Clovis himself shouted. But Toby spent the war playing soldiers in the drawing room alone while Tom and Rupert fell at Ypres and the Somme.

Toby was soon shut away like the King’s own lost prince. He theoretically succeeded his father to the peerage in 1937, while his brother George, ten years younger, the father of two girls assumed the role in practice.

Crippled by shrapnel and debt, George opened the house to the public after the war. More than one guest reported seeing a small child during the tour, aged no more than twelve.