Forgotten Books: The Willows at Christmas and The Willows in Winter by William Horwood

these are the 249th & 250th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Willows at Christmas (2001) and The Willows In Winter ( 1994) by William Horwood, St. Martin, (US) hardcovers, illustrated by Patrick Benson


I’d like to think tthe-willows-at-christmashat anyone who read Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful The Wind in the Willows thought “I wish there was more.”

Wish no more, there is, and these books are just as well written, the beloved characters spot-on delightful, the Patrick Benson illustrations are top notch. These are every bit as joyous to read as the original. That’s no mean feat when writing a sequel to a classic, but Horwood has done it with these delightful books.

The Willows at Christmas is set not too long after the original book, at – of course – Christmas time. Mole wonders why the river bank residents are so low-key about the holiday, especially Toad. It turns out his former nanny’s daughter decends on Toad Hall for the Christmas holidays through Twelfth Night and she rules with an iron hand. He allows this because… well, you’ll have to read the book, won’t you? Fortunately, Mole, Ratty, Otter and Badger come to the rescue, but things aren’t straightened out until some harrowing events takes place. A wonderful story.

The Willows in Winter is a sequel to Wind in the Willows, and the familiar characters are all here in a new adventure. First Mole gets lost in a blizzard and must be found. Then, if you recall Toad’s lack of control once at the wheel of a motorcar, in the original book, then you can well imagine what happens when ha buys an areoplane!  After a few flying lessons, he loses patience and thinks he’s ready to go solo. Once again his friends must come to his rescue, though with some reservations about it.

I first discovered Horwood when I came across his Duncton Wood many years ago. There are several books in that series, some of which I have yet to acquire as they are very difficult to find, but those I have managed to obtain I’ve enjoyed.

I’d be hard pressed to think of another author who’s such a good fit with Grahame’s style and vision for these novels about the beloved Ratty, Mole, Badger and of course Toad. Immensely enjoyable.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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12 Responses to Forgotten Books: The Willows at Christmas and The Willows in Winter by William Horwood

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    It’s been a long, long time since I read the original. Glad you enjoyed this so much.

    Yes, Toad behind the wheel was one of the most memorable scenes.

    • Jeff, I read Wind in the Willows as a child, and again in YA years and at least twice more as an adult. These following novels by William Horwood are just as good. I re-read them last week for this post.

  2. oh wow, I didn’t know of these books. got to pick them up

  3. Jerry House says:

    I tried to get into DUNCTON WOOD when it first came out in paperback but had no luck. Maybe it’s time I give it another go.

    • It’s a little harder, Jerry. I read it after I’d wanted “more” after Watership Down. There are several Dunction books, and I like them, but these, with the familiar characters, are wonderful. Maybe it’s the child in me coming out.

  4. Roger says:

    Jan Needle’s Wild Wood looks at The Wind in the Willows from the stoats’ and weasels’ point-of-view…

  5. I’ve had The Willows at Christmas and The Willows in Winter by William Horwood on my shelves for years. After reading your fine review, I want to drop everything and read them! But, I can’t because I’m wrapping Christmas presents tonight and delivering the presents tomorrow. Maybe, next year.

  6. Oh my goodness, Richard – I’d never heard of these sequels. They sound delightful! I’m going to do my best in the New Year to get copies for myself. Thanks so much for the introduction. And Merry Christmas to you and your family – hope you’re feeling better these days.

  7. Richard, my wife picked up a nice hardback of Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows” which I hope to read early next year.

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