Head of Zeus, £18.99, pp304
Matthew Dennison’s short, gripping and consistently surprising biography of Kenneth Grahame ably explains how a stuffy bank clerk produced arguably the greatest children’s book ever written, The Wind in the Willows. Grahame’s was a life of tragedy from its beginning and a consequent retreat into private fantasy proved both his imaginative salvation and, thanks to his unfortunate son, “Mouse”, the greatest loss of all.
Pushkin Press, £12.99, pp160
After his acclaimed The Evenings, these two posthumously published novellas by the Dutch writer Gerard Reve, skilfully translated by Sam Garrett, show he was capable of enormous and often unsettling power. In the first tale, Werther Nieland, he explores the shifting dynamic between two boys, while The Fall of the Boslowits Family is a disturbing child’s-eye view of persecution during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. Reve’s ability to convey menace and tension is on display throughout.
‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’
Penguin, £7.99, pp128
The 1968 second world war film Where Eagles Dare has some high-profile admirers (Spielberg, Tarantino and Michael Ondaatje among them), and now Geoff Dyer’s concise, blissfully funny, scene-by-scene examination of the picture’s joys and absurdities adds him to the pantheon. Dyer is keenly aware of the ridiculousness of any war movie that pairs Richard Burton (at the height of his drinking) and Clint Eastwood as a heroic, Nazi-killing duo rescuing a high-ranking officer. He writes about his beloved hokum affectionately, relishing his subject’s silliness and reminding the reader that there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good, old-fashioned piece of stirring nonsense.
To order Eternal Boy for £16.71, Childhood for £11.43 or ‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’ for £7.03 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99