The Path Through the Trees, the second volume of Christopher Milne’s autobiography, was first published in 1979, and has been recently reissued by Bello. It starts where The Enchanted Places ‘left off’, but, the author says, this book ‘is a complement [to it]. It is about the non-Pooh part of my life. It is an escape from Christopher Robin’.
In The Path Through The Trees, Milne presents what he thinks of as ‘a disjointed story – but a happy life’. He describes the second part of his autobiography as follows: ‘So I live at the bottom of a valley. I have a small bookshop in a small town; and I seldom venture far afield’. In the book, his story begins at ‘the point in time when the choice stopped being theirs [his parents'] and became mine’. It opens with the declaration of the Second World War, when he has finished at his public school and is about to go and study at Trinity College, Cambridge.
A few of the themes which were so prevalent in The Enchanted Places weave their way into The Path Through the Trees, most notably the importance of nature and Milne’s love for his natural surroundings. The Path Through the Trees is written just as eloquently as the former, but the entirety feels far more grown up. Milne talks about smoking for the first (and last) time, forays into politics, his joining up with the Army, discovering himself as a person, his marriage, and becoming a father. Records from his personal diary have been copied verbatim.
Whilst the charm of the first book has not made its way into the second, The Path Through the Trees is still a most interesting read, particularly when Milne reaches his acquisition of the Harbour Bookshop in the small town of Dartmouth. It is at this point that the book really comes into its own.
One cannot help but feel, however, that the same kind of leap between volumes of autobiography is present here as exists between Roald Dahl’s Boy and Going Solo. The spellbinding note has been lost somewhere along the way, and sadly, a lot of it tends to read just like any other memoir.