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The Golden Age by Kenneth Grahame

The Golden Age (1895)

by Kenneth Grahame

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Early edition with wonderful silhouettes and illustrations by Ernest Shepard.
  unclebob53703 | Feb 18, 2016 |
This is not a children's book; the target audience is the adult in us who remembers something of what it was like to be a child. Kenneth Grahame makes the everyday adventures and imaginary play of the narrator and his siblings seem idyllic.
The illustrations by Maxfield Parrish are done in black and white and I suspect that they would be lovely in color.

Some quotes I liked:

[In describing The Olympians--grownups---]:
Indeed, it was one of the most hopeless features in their character ... that, having absolute licence to indulge in the pleasures of life, they could get no good of it.... No irresistible Energy haled them to church o' Sundays; yet they went there regularly of their own accord, though they betrayed no greater delight in the experience than ourselves. [p. 4]

Time, the destroyer of all things beautiful, subsequently revealed the baselessness of these legends; but what of that? There are higher things than truth; ... "Alarums and Excursions" [p. 49]

Hither the yoke-shouldering village-fold were wont to come to fill their clinking buckets; when the drippings made worms of wet in the thick dust of the road. They had flat wooden crosses inside each pail, which floated to the top and (we were instructed) served to prevent the water from slopping over. We used to wonder by what magic this strange principle worked, and who first invented the crosses, and whether he got a peerage for it. "Finding the Princess" [p. 56]
[Googling found this quote about wells: "Some buckets had a hoop with a wooden cross placed on top of the water in the bucket to prevent spillage." [p.35] at http://www.redlynchparishcouncil.org/Wells%20and%20Springs.pdf]

"These stories had their origins, my dear," [their governess] explained, "in a mistaken anthropomorphism in the interpretation of nature. But though we are now too well informed to fall into similar errors, there are still many beautiful lessons to be learned from these myths ---" "Snowbound" [p.124] ( )
  raizel | Nov 16, 2015 |
See review for Dream Days ( )
  unclebob53703 | Jan 24, 2015 |
I was delighted when I found this book as the Wind in the Willows is one of my all-time favourite stories. Most people haven't even heard of the Golden Age story collection with good reason - they are really terrible. Words that come to mind thinking of Wind in the Willows include charming, beautifully-written, wonderful characterisations, relatable dialogue, a story for all children for all time. By contrast the words that come to mind on reading the Golden Age are boring, smug, lacks creativity and overwritten . On seeing this book, do not get your hopes up as I did, but pass on, pass on. Even if its free in the library, your time is worth more than this book will deliver. ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
"The Golden Age" is narrated by an unnamed boy, possibly meant to be the author himself, as he goes through the "golden years" of his childhood.

With his friends - the dramatic Harold, the shy Charlotte, and Edward, the oldest - he enjoys all the lighthearted, whimsical fun of being young.

The descriptions of the children's games, their outlook on life, their make believe stories, and their favorite fairytales are charming to read about.
I was quite surprised at the writing in this book - it is beautifully done. Written in magical, silvery prose, it was a joy to read.

For example, this passage on music:

"...some notes have all the sea in them, and some cathedral bells; others a woodland joyance and a smell of greenery; in some fauns dance to the merry reed, and even the grace centaurs peep out from their caves. Some bring moonlight, and some the deep crimson of a rose's heart; some are blue, some red, while others will tell of an army with silken standards..."

Also interesting was the classical leaning that this book had. The children are well versed in Latin and Greek, and seem to be quite familiar with Greek mythology and lore.
They call the adults in their lives "Olympians," and are constantly playing games that involve Homer, the Argonauts, or other such figures.

They also have their own customs and culture, entirely separate from the adult's world. There are rules - both official ones and unspoken ones - such as the law that no one may feed someone else's rabbit. There are alliances that are broken and then patched back up repeatedly, fads and fashions that waver in and out of style, and special trysts made.

The children's comparison of themselves to the adults is most strongly voiced in the prologue, where the Narrator expresses that adults do things they don't really want to (for example, going to church or to work) even though there is no one there to make them do it. The children only do so because the Olympians make them. They all say that once they are grown up, they won't do anything of the sort.

The childish naivete, which still possesses a sort of simplistic logic, is what governs this story.

Though I liked it, I couldn't actually call this book a great read. Nothing much happens - it seems that Grahame's aim was to transport the reader, or perhaps simply transport himself, back to childhood, and that is all. If there had been more of a storyline, such as exists in "Peter Pan," this book could have been perfect. ( )
4 vote joririchardson | Oct 27, 2010 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kenneth Grahameprimary authorall editionscalculated
Parrish, MaxfieldIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shepard, Ernest H.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Looking back to those days of old, ere the gate shut behind me, I can see now that to children with a proper equipment of parents these things would have worn a different aspect.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Available online at The Hathi Trust:

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486443655, Paperback)

Based in part on his own Victorian childhood, Grahame's collection of short stories centers on a group of children, revealing through their adventures how children's and adults' perceptions of the world differ. A delightful work by the author of The Wind in the Willows. 19 plates of illustrations; 12 line drawings.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:20 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

This 1895 collection makes use of imagery from Greek mythology to paint the adult world as one of aloof Olympians out of touch with the inner, imaginative lives of their own children. Each story deals with the struggle between children and adults. Contents include A White-Washed Uncle, The Finding of the Princess, The Argonauts, and The Secret Drawer.… (more)

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