Book Review: The Willows – Algernon Blackwood


Publisher: Wildside Press
Release Date: January 2006
Pages: 105.
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.


A wonderful supernatural tale that will fill you with dread, every time you read it!

Two companions set out on a canoeing trip down the Danube river. They laugh and enjoy their time travelling and admiring the scenery. The friends camp for the night on a small island where mysterious things begin to happen. One of their paddles disappear, strange funnels appear in the sand and is it their imagination or have the willow bushes that surround the island moved closer? The two friends must find a way off the island before disaster strikes.

I absolutely love this book, I’ve read it before and it is no less creepy and wonderful the second time around. Personally I think that horror novels/films are most effective when you don’t actually see anything. That eerie sense of not knowing what is there seems to result in such a strong feeling of discomfort. That is very much at play in The Willows. Previously I had never heard of Algernon Blackwood, but this is one of his most popular stories, and part of the reason for that is the complete horror and the story instils. HP Lovecraft stated his belief that it is the finest supernatural tale in English literature. This is a must read for fans of horror and weird fiction.

The story is a fairly simple one, but it’s amazingly executed. The two try to deny all that they have seen and the narrator in true human fashion, attempts to find explanations for the various fantastic things that happen, but as their lives become threatened, they admit to all they have seen and find a way off the tiny island they’ve inhabited. It’s dark, compelling and a truly fascinating read.

“When common objects in this way become charged with the suggestion of horror, they stimulate the imagination far more than things of unusual appearance; and these bushes, crowding huddled about us, assumed for me in the darkness a bizarre grotesquerie of appearance that lent to them somehow the aspect of purposeful and living creatures. Their very ordinariness, I felt, masked what was malignant and hostile to us.”

The novel makes an interesting study of psychology, and how things that are so ordinary to us, willow bushes, otters and the wind, can turn into something truly monstrous. There is also the question of the reliability of the story, did these haunting things happen to the companions, or is the story simply a hallucination of two people exhausted from travelling?

It is easy to see the effect such a story would have on master horror writer HP Lovecraft. It’s a truly wonderful story and if you’re a fan of weird fiction, definitely stick this one on your wish list.

Looking for something similar? Try: The Dunwich Horror or Cold Hand in Mine.

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