Primary Genre(s): Horror, Classics, Novella
Published: 1907 (part of The Listener and Other Stories)
Page count: 105 (varies by edition)
My Format: eBook via Hoopla
Pacing: Controlled, foreboding
Do I Recommend: Yes
Commission Link (U.S.): Buy The Willows (free on Amazon)
My rating: ★★★★☆
Two friends are midway on a canoe trip down the Danube River. Throughout the story Blackwood personifies the surrounding environment—river, sun, wind—and imbues them with a powerful and ultimately threatening character. Most ominous are the masses of dense, desultory, menacing willows, which “moved of their own will as though alive, and they touched, by some incalculable method, my own keen sense of the horrible.”
I recently read The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher. The author discusses in the end notes how The Willows inspired her book. After reading her story I decided I had to read The Willows for myself. Here are my pros and cons for The Willows:
- If you can get past the wordiness (see Con #1) you are rewarded with a fantastic story.
- To me this is horror at its best because, like the characters in the story, you don’t really know what is going on! Even when confronted with the supernatural, you still don’t know what it is or what is actually happening and that makes it even more psychologically intense.
- The atmosphere is stressful, foreboding, and incredibly frightening!
- I loved how the terror intensified throughout the story! It was a controlled crescendo that ended in a horrifying showdown between the men and the evil that was attacking them.
- The story includes strange otters, veils between worlds, mysterious boatmen, weird noises, unseen dangers, odd holes, and more!
- H.P. Lovecraft considered this story to be “the finest supernatural tale in English literature.”
- It is definitely written for the time (1907) and at times was verbose and sluggish.
I thought this short story was incredibly engaging and extraordinarily scary. I really liked it. I am sorry to say, however, that while The Hollow Places (T. Kingfisher) had a lot of similar elements in the story (all the things listed in Pro #5 above) the end result was not the same. I enjoyed the original much more than the contemporary homage.
WARNING: You may never want to go on a canoe trip or a camping trip again in your life after reading this short story! And you might want to steer clear of willow trees!!
If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy The Willows (free on Amazon). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
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(image from Goodreads)
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