T.S. Eliot once said that he would show us "fear in a handful of dust." Blackwood, it seems, was trying to show us fear in a forest of trees. It could have worked, I guess. Tolkien's Mirkwood forest gave me the creeps. The Black Forest of German fairytales has often given me the willies, but here something fell flat. If a tree falls in the forest when no one is around does anyone care?
Perhaps it started with title. It sound more like a bad Hallmark film than a scary tale. I mean [b:The Willows|1335601|The Willows|Algernon Blackwood|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348548258s/1335601.jpg|2588003] was not a very creepy title either, but at least it was short enough and didn't have the word "Loved" in it. Picky? Maybe but the title also points to another flaw in the book--it points to characters as the main focus (the man at least), but the characters' lack of depth made it difficult for me to continue reading.
This novella is centered on a older couple (though their age wasn't specified until I had imagined them as a young), Mr. and Mrs. Bittacy. And what do we learn about these folks? The woman is staunch and ultra-religious Christian and the man is obsessed with trees. The worst part is that this isn't like other tales where a person or couple fall apart. They often start off making you care about the couple--if they are written well--so that a large part of the fear is that these people's lives are going to be destroyed. But Blackwood gave me very little to work with in term of characters. I must confess that I couldn't find any characters to really like.
Blackwood definitely had a way with writing landscape. He paints the forests of trees with words like Bob Ross did with his brush. However, Blackwood seemed bent on convincing the reader that the trees represented ancient pre-Christian pagan beliefs without really showing us how this is so. It came off didactic rather than descriptive. Show don't tell has long been the English teacher's motto. Well I was begging to be shown just why the trees were so sinister. He did a great job in the Willows. Stephen King did an excellent job in [b:Pet Sematary|1736451|Pet Sematary|Stephen King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1187569977s/1736451.jpg|17877686]. But, here, Blackwood just seemed bent on making his female lead character (Mrs. Bittacy) look like an old prude who just needed to give up her old fashion religion and come around to an even older one.
All in all, the plot was all about her character resigning herself to the fact that her husband loved his trees more than her and that the world didn't fit into the tight little categories she originally thought it did. Even this could have been done well I guess, but, alas, it wasn't all that engaging. On the fear factor I give it one star. I know one thing, rather than keep me up at night, this book often had me sawing logs. Don't go barking up this tree unless you want to leaf disappointed.