The Wind In The Willows, By Kenneth Grahame

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The Independent Culture

Perfect summer reading, especially if you're near the Thames's "glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl", this remains a potent classic of children's literature. Except that it isn't. In his introduction, Peter Hunt stresses that the 1908 masterpiece by the Secretary to the Bank of England is "neither an animal story, nor for children".

One critic suggested that Toad is "close to psychopathic" while another drew parallels with Krafft-Ebing's Textbook of Insanity. Hunt notes that Mole's jibe at rabbits ("Onion-sauce!") was supported by Mrs Beeton ("preferred for boiled rabbit"). He also points out that the "incredible speed" of the car that transfixed Toad would only have been 20mph if the driver observed the national speed limit.