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.

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