Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: The Golden Age by Kenneth Grahame

Title: The Golden Age
Author: Kenneth Grahame
Genre: Classic
First published: 1895
Pages: 196

Rating: 5 out of 10

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 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.