The Willow By Your Side by Peter Haynes
Unsung Stories, pb, £6.99
Reviewed by martin willoughby
Some novels keep you up because you want to read them all the way through in one sitting. Others due to the story and/or the characters leaving a deep impression on you. Some leave a mark that you’re not sure about until a while later when you remember your past or meet someone from your past.
Many books and authors fall into this category, leaving you wondering what happened after the story finishes.
This one doesn’t.
It’s an overwritten novella. Had it been half the size it would have been good. As it stands, it’s overlong, dull, expanded beyond belief, and by the end leaves you wondering who the characters are.
After reading it I still couldn’t tell you much about the setting, the main character or the secondary characters, aside from one-dimensional portraits.
What I do remember is that it seems to be set after WW1, the boy has a sister who disappears, there are two warring armies in the forest that may or may not exist and the father has bad memories of the war.
The only stand out moment from the book is when the boy, whose name is never given, is facing down other boys his own age. Their fathers never returned from the war. After being shoved around by these kids, he reminded them of that, then runs. It’s a moment of social history that is still relevant today as there are many war-orphans in all parts of the world.
But that’s it.
Is this real life or is it fantasy? Is it a dream or something that happened? Do I even care? Not really. This is a book that I will forget about, that one scene aside, fairly quickly.
Is there anything good about the book? Yes. The artwork on the cover is appropriate.