The Other Sequel: The River Bank

Book Review: The River Bank by Kij Johnson

There have been a number of sequels to The Wind in the Willows, but the two most recent ones are mine, In the Wake of the Willows and The River Bank by Kij Johnson.  These two books are poles apart, both geographically and stylistically for The River Bank takes place in England, during Edwardian times, on the same river as the original book.

While I was writing my book, I assiduously avoided reading any of The Wind in the Willows sequels because I did not want to subconsciously pick up any concepts, ideas, terms or phrases that were not mine.  However after I finished the first draft of my book in 2017, I cast around looking for other sequels and found Ms. Johnson’s The River Bank. I immediately ordered a copy from Partner’s Village Store and had my heart in my mouth waiting for it.  When I got the book I was relieved that there was no possible overlap in our stories, but I was very impressed by the high-level of craftsmanship in this book.  Ms. Johnson, currently a professor of fiction writing at the University of Kansas, is a prolific author of fantasy books and articles, but her River Bank is neither fantasy nor sci-fi. It is shocking to me, and showed her power as a writer, that someone so busy could pivot so beautifully and produce such a book.

Johnson’s The River Bank is a masterful work of art.  It is exquisitely perfect in every subtle nuance of the language and the times.  The perfection of Kij’s prose seems almost superhuman.   I found the book to be transporting, intriguing, lovely, and gentle.  It provides a long overdue feminine touch to the hide-bound Men’s Club that was the original.  If you need a gentle escape from today’s current events, try this book.

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