Customer Review

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An encounter with elemental hostility down the river of no return, 24 April 2007
This review is from: The Willows (Paperback)
Two old friends, accustomed to taking adventurous canoeing holidays together, are travelling the length of the Danube. They've been having a wonderful time, paddling through picturesque forests, shopping for provisions in quaint old villages, shooting rapids, camping, sun-bathing. Life couldn't be better. Then they come to a region where the river breaks into many channels, between shifting islands populated by willow bushes. The river is in flood and a fierce wind is blowing. They must be very careful not to get lost in this swamp-like environment. The danger is that they could be left high and dry when the water drops, miles from anywhere and short of food. With great difficulty they manage to beach on one of the larger islands - though even this looks as though it might be washed away within two or three days. The rushing water and roaring wind, gusting violently through the willows and stirring up the sand is exhilarating, but they only plan to camp there for one night then move on in the morning. After a short rest, they start to prepare their camp. Then they spot something strange tearing past in the river. They soon find a way to rationalise it. Then something (or someone) else follows it, gesticulating oddly. This too they manage to explain away. But they're beginning to feel unsettled. The evening brings further alarms. Both men try to laugh off or shrug off the weird occurrences, until finally, their pretence that all is normal can no longer be maintained. The willows seem possessed by some uncanny and hostile alien life-force. Their presence in this area of wild beauty is resented and they seem under attack.

Algernon Blackwood is my favourite writer of supernatural tales and stories that take place in wilderness areas of extraordinary beauty. He renders plain English into poetry. The Willows is one of my special favourites because he describes the river, the islands, the flora and fauna, the wind and the light conditions, so that you can see it and feel it. If not for the element of horror, you could wish you were there with the spray in your face and the wind in your hair. I would have no hesitation in recommending this short story to anyone who loves wonderful stories, beautifully written, but before you decide to buy a single story, consider buying a collection of his short stories. The Willows is included in at least two collections currently available at Amazon. You will find it in "Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories" (a collection of 9 tales) and "Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood" (a collection of 13). Both of these also include "The Wendigo": another of my favourites that I would highly recommend.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Mar 2010 13:10:56 GMT
Octo7 says:
Great review of a great story.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Dec 2010 23:23:05 GMT
M. T. Hughes says:
I agree that this was an excellent review.
I could add no more as you have said it all.
"The Willows" is a firm favourite of mine and highly recommended.
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