Jul 3, 2014

The Enchanted Places

by Christopher Milne

If you grew up loving Winnie the Pooh like I did (not the Disney character but the real Pooh books) then you're bound to find this book delightful and intriguing. It's written by Christopher Milne, the boy who inspired the stories by A.A. Milne. Except, as he points out, they didn't really all happen to him. Some were purely invented by the writer, others were stories from his father's childhood. It interested me to see which poems and stories he took particular pains to explain were not the way things happened. If you haven't read the originals some references will be obscure, but for me they were quite familiar as those literary works are among the few that don't pall with time; I can read and enjoy them just as much today as twenty-five years ago.

But it's not only about the Pooh stories and how they did or didn't exist in Christopher's actual playtime. A lot of the book describes what his life was like growing up, being free to play and explore in the woodlands, ruled by and devoted to his Nanny, growing into a close and respectful relationship with his father as he was older. I am glad that this went both ways; his father trusted Christopher the boy implicitly, which gave me alarm when I started to read about his acquisition of -and experimentation with- a pistol at the age of nine- thankfully that ended well and not in some tragedy. He also mentions some regrets when he got older at the attention fame brought him as a young child, including how other boys in boarding school teased him. I admit I got quite bored with the descriptions of all the rooms in the house and how things were laid out or who arranged different household matters- his mother, his father or someone else altogether. Maybe those things are interesting because the lifestyle was so different back then, but I wanted to read more about the people and their doings, about the outdoor adventures and of course, the background of the stories.

It saddens me that Christopher apparently did not think much of himself as a writer; I like his voice on the page. In fact, the tone reminded me of his father's (hopefully he wouldn't mind the comparison). So I am glad to discover there are two other books of memoirs following this one: The Path Through the Trees and The Hollow on the Hill. I would love to read them, but they're out of print, so it will be serendipitous if I do find them. Luckily I came across this one at a secondhand sale and picked it up, not yet knowing what I held.

Rating: 4/5        169 pages, 1974

more opinions:
Things Mean a Lot
The Captive Reader
Stuck in a Book
Complete & Unabridged


Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Ugh, I can only imagine the ferocious boarding school teasing he'd have gotten. Maybe AA Milne should have held off publishing the books until Christoper Robin was a bit more grown up.

Trish said...

Sadly I haven't read any of the Winnie the Pooh stories but it sounds like I really need to--especially when Elle is ready for longer stories. I had no idea that Christopher was a real child! This sounds like a fascinating read.

Jeane said...

Jenny- Well, it was only mentioned. Didn't seem like an overwhelming thing, but then again I am sure he felt miserable.

Trish- Yes, do! Read them to your daughter. They are so wonderful. I knew for a long time that it was based on a real child's imaginary play, but didn't know there was a book about it until just recently.