Duncton Wood by William Horwood

Another book that I re-read recently was Duncton Wood by William Horwood. I seem to remember reading my Nan’s copy soon after reading Watership Down and enjoying it. Now, reading it many years later my view is somewhat changed. Not necessarily for the worse but I can find more faults in it.

The first fault is the length. It seems as though William Horwood was adding in extra things just to delay getting to the end. The Lord of the Rings is a much longer book and so is ‘The Tale of Genji’ but both of them felt more complete. Duncton Wood could have finished quite nicely after 500 pages. The principle characters in the book Rebecca and Bracken after a great deal of travelling and separation finally get to be together but their end is downright peculiar. It just doesn’t make sense to me at all.

There are though some very good points to this book, the first is William Horwood’s description, and obvious love, of the British countryside. It is no surprise that he was able to write the sequels to the Wind in the Willows. It’s a great strength and thoroughly enables the reader to be next to the characters feeling the wind in their fur, smelling the damp leaves under the trees. The other strength are the characters, they are believable and their actions by and large feel right.

Duncton Wood begins very well and the plot for the first part of the book is very good. It’s just that towards the end it all felt a bit too drawn out. In the early stages I devoured chapters eagerly but towards the end I was getting tired. Especially after Bracken and Rebecca’s end. I think the telling thing was I picked up the sequel, which pretty much picks up where Duncton Wood finishes but after the first few pages put it down. I’ve not felt any desire to pick it back up.

Would I recommend Duncton Wood? It’s hard to say. I do remember enjoying it when I was younger, and again re-reading it was good fun for the most part. There are further five books in the series so evidently many people have read them and enjoyed them. I just found the end too much.

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

For a number of years I’ve had books in three locations and slowly but surely I’m getting them altogether in one place. In some cases I’ve gone through my shelves sorting out those books I intend keeping and parting with those books which I know realistically I will never read again.

In my mother’s loft there are a number of boxes containing my books and recently I brought a few boxes back home, unpacked them and re-discovered the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. Now, I’ve never read a lot of science fiction, nor for that matter a lot of fantasy, but I do remember the Foundation Trilogy and I do remember how impressed by it I was. Only the other month I recommended it to a colleague. I can imagine a few people dismissing the books because of its genre but I feel they are missing out. These are great books.

I re-read all my Isaac Asimov books, the first three and then the subsequent sequels written many years later. I must admit that whilst I enjoyed the last two: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth they cannot compare to the first three. The first three are superb stories: tight plots with great characters, the last two unfortunately are a bit too full of the sort of stuff that turn people of science fiction, a lot of arguing over minor details and a lot of techie info-dumps rescued though by a good imagination and clever thinking. Perhaps you can’t have one without the other, but if you read the first three I would argue that you can. Maybe the first three books benefited from being written as short stories for magazines and maybe the last two suffered because the author was given free rein.