This is not the first time I read Blackwood. I have gone through some of his short stories before. But, none of them was this effective in pulling me in. I picked this book without any prior knowledge about it. I found it in my Kindle one day, saw that its just some 100 pages, so I got right to it.
The Willows is about two friends who went on a canoe trip in The Danube and get so much more than what they bargained for. When I first started reading it, I thought it is about one of the expeditions the author went on with his friend (the book is written in the first person), or ‘companion’ as he would like me to say. There are amazing descriptions of The Danube, the sun and the willow of course. The first few pages went on to set the landscape with beautiful imagery put in front of us. But then the tone changes. As the chapter reached the first night of their stay, the two friends started to feel like they are trespassing and someone is not quite happy about it. This is the part which made me love this book even more.
“I felt, and the human voice, always rather absurd amid the roar of the elements, now carried with it something almost illegitimate. It was like talking out loud in church, or in some place where it was not lawful, perhaps not quite safe, to be overheard.”
There on everything went sideways. The writer became nervous and suspicious of almost everything and I just loved how he winningly was able to put all that in this book. There is an abundance of personification which adds to the beauty of it. Also, this is the part where the readers don’t know if there is really something out there or not, so no one is quite clear if the writer and his friend were hallucinating or not.
“…if suddenly they should rise up, like a swarm of living creatures, marshalled by the gods whose territory we had invaded, sweep towards us off the vast swamps, booming overhead in the night – and then settle down!”
Amazing sections like these were plenty to create a creepy setting. Till the end, the book became so interesting that it was difficult to put it down even for a second. The tone which previously was dark became outright horrifying. Not to reveal any spoilers so I won’t say if there exactly was anything or not in the woods, but to keep it interesting I would say that the willows were not totally innocent.
The book reminded me of a recent movie I have seen. It was The Ritual, by Netflix. The Ritual was about four friends who take go on a hike in the jungle and became part of a one really terrible ritual. I wonder if it was inspired by this book. If it wasn’t, I bet its time to make a movie out of this one. This book is one of the best horror novels I have read because rather than showing off any horrendous ghost or animal, it deals with the demons in your mind and also in nature.