Archive for the ‘Christopher Milne’ Category

SNB-logo-small-e1393871908245It has been a hectic last couple of weeks so I haven’t until now had a chance to sit down and go through the new issue of Shiny New Books.  And what an excellent issue it is, full of an amazing variety of excellent reviews and interesting bookish articles.

I am also delighted by the issue because it marks my first – but hopefully not last – involvement with SNB.  I reviewed three newly reissued Angela Thirkell novels and one of Christopher Milne’s memoirs, The Path Through the Trees.  Two of my passions as a book blogger are introducing other readers to Angela Thirkell and discussing anything A.A. Milne related, so I’m tickled that this is how I was able to launch myself on SNB readers!

If you haven’t yet had a chance to sift through the new issue, do check it out!  You could start by looking at a few of the reviews that caught my eye:

A.A. Milne: His Life by Ann Thwaite

Domestic Manners of the Americans by Frances Trollope

Women of the World by Helen McCarthy

An Island Odyssey  by Hamish Haswell Smith

The Disinherited by Robert Sackville-West

Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy

Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato


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I’ve been looking at a lot of photos of A.A. Milne recently (who knew I had so many on my hard drive?) and a startling majority feature Milne’s constant companion: his pipe. I’ve come across several pieces of his writing about smoking (including “Smoking as a fine art“) but was most entertained by a memory his son had of a traumatic instance when Milne found himself without his pipe:

My father smoked a pipe.  In fact he was seldom without a pipe in his mouth.  I remember on one occasion he and I went for a swim together while on one our Dorset holidays.  We had just dressed and were preparing to spend an hour or so reclining on the beach, idly throwing stones into the water, when he felt in his pocket.  ‘My God!’ he cried.  ‘I’ve left my pipe behind.  Quick.  We must go home at once. ‘ And he set off running….

The Path Through the Trees by Christopher Milne


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At two-thirds of the way through The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne, I was incredibly frustrated.  I was not enjoying the book.  I had wanted to, I had heard good things from friends and had seen positive reviews on other blogs, but I was having trouble with it.  Was it the format perhaps?  The short chapters, mini-essays really?  The lack of narrative structure?  These things don’t usually bother me but I think I had gone into the book expecting it to be more of a traditional biography and less…episodic? 

Finally, I realised the main problem: it had been too long since I had read any of A.A. Milne’s works.  As a child, my father read me the Winnie-the-Pooh books but we were far greater fans of Milne’s poetry and, while I can still recite “Disobedience” and “The Dormouse and the Doctor”, I cannot tell you where Eeyore lived.  The first portion of the books is very much Christopher Milne’s life in contrast to Christopher Robin’s and, when you can’t remember much about Christopher Robin, you rather miss the point.

Eventually though, the book settled into a more cohesive, focused style that I found far easier to read and enjoy.  It also concentrated on Christopher’s relationship with his father which, honestly, is what I wanted to read about.  Despite being one of the most beloved children’s authors, A.A. Milne was not greatly involved in his son’s early years.  He may have written about his son (or some alternative version of his son) but he did not necessarily need to be involved with Christopher to take inspiration from him:

There are two sorts of writer.  There is the writer who is basically a reporter and there is the creative writer.  The one draws on his experiences, the other on his dreams.  My father was a creative writer and so it was precisely because he was not able to play with his small son that his longings sought and found satisfaction in another direction.  He wrote about him instead. (P. 36)

By adolescence, the two had formed close bonds, despite their earlier distance, becoming not just father and son but friends.  A.A. may have spoiled Christopher a little, allowing his son to rely on him more than was probably good for his development, but it created a bond between them that was abnormally close, particularly for father-son relationships of that era.  Even as Christopher continued to age, through school and, from the quick glimpse we see, his time in the army during WWII, the friendship between them held.

Having enjoyed the concluding portion of the book so much, I must try to track down the remaining two-thirds of this autobiographical trilogy: The Path Through the Trees and The Hollow on the Hill.  They both appear to be rather obscure but that just means more time spent combing through used bookstores.  How I suffer.

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