Monday, October 17, 2011

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood

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)


mel u said...

I read Blackwood's "The Great God Pan" recently and really enjoyed it-I have "The Willows" on my TBR list-I enjoyed your excellent post a lot-thanks

MarthaE said...

I may have to check into this...sounds intriguing. I found you through the link at Cym's.

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said...

Narration can take so much away, and it can definitely add as well! I love how you let us know that the initial reading style is likely intentional, because I'm the type of person who can't continue to listen to a flat reading style!

Came over from Cym's

ChrisG said...

This was a great discovery. I had my doubts about the narrator at first too, but also was converted. Definitely a favorite.