Writing women into The Wind in the Willows revitalises the canon

Making imaginative room for another sex in this much-loved classic opened up its world to me

I grew up in a very small town in Iowa in the 60s, where the library was a single, graceful room with a golden oak circulation desk, which overlooked everything but a lone bookcase packed with the complete American Heritage backlist. Books were divided into children’s, mysteries, science fiction, romance, biography, science, nonfiction (we didn’t have rarefied arcana like history or current events). “New Acquisitions” were whatever had been dropped off recently: old Agatha Christies, accidentally ordered Book of the Month Club selections, agricultural yearbooks from the 1950s.

I read them all. Once I finished the children’s section, I started at the upper left-hand corner of the first bookcase (mysteries), and proceeded methodically. This made for some highly age-inappropriate choices, as when I waded through the Decameron aged 10. I read everything the same ...