Source: LibriVox (zipped mp3s)
Length: 2 hours, 21 minutes
Reader: Michael Thomas Robinson
The book: Considered one of the greatest stories in horror literature, The Willows lives up to its reputation. Two friends canoeing down the Danube stop for the night on an island in the middle of a huge expanse of willow trees. The place seems mystic, almost otherworldly, and in the night the two interlopers find out why.
Blackwood could have set this story in any exotic river in the world, but he chose the Danube. This river, which runs through the heart of Europe, is the wildness that runs through what was then the epitome of civilization. As the atmosphere of this turns from idyllic to terrifying, Blackwood is showing that the unknown horrors of the world can be anywhere, even where we should be the most safe. This, I think, is the most horrifying realization of all.
Rating: 9 / 10
The reader: At first, I was not impressed by Robinson's voice. He's somewhat nasal, and starts the book with a bored, straightforward style. As the story went on, though, I realized the initial bored tone was probably intentional, contrasting with the building dread of the story. His pace quickens and slows to build the tension, drawing the listener into the horror of what the narrator is experiencing. Despite my early misgivings, I greatly enjoyed this reading.
(entered in Cym Lowell's Book Review Party Wednesday)