This book has zero scare factor. The title is also a little misleading, as not all of the stories are about haunted forests. I enjoyed the other British Library Tales of the Weird collection that I’ve read, Evil Roots, much more than this one.
The collection has a general introduction and contains 12 stories, each with a spoiler-free mini introduction. I liked that the stories all had real settings around Great Britain and some of them had that ‘sitting around a merrily crackling fire on a winter’s evening’ atmosphere associated with traditional ghost stories. However, the only pieces which really stood out for me were those by Edith Nesbit and Algernon Blackwood. One of the good things about collections like this is that authors who were popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries but have since become obscure are now being presented to us for rediscovery, so it was interesting to read some of these authors for the first time.
‘The Whisper in the Wood’ by Anon is a terrifically gothic story of a father and son.
‘Man-Size in Marble’ by Edith Nesbit – cautionary tale of why we should heed old legends.
‘The Striding Place’ by Gertrude Atherton – didn’t enjoy the writing style or the ending.
‘The Man Who Went Too Far’ by E F Benson is Dorian Gray-esque and intensely wordy.
‘An Old Thorn’ by W H Hudson – didn’t quite understand this one.
‘The White Lady of Rownam Avenue’ by Elliot O’Donnell – traditional ghost story presented as truth.
‘Ancient Lights’ by Algernon Blackwood is an amusing story of a forest which deals with trespassers.
‘The Name-Tree’ by Mary Webb – feminist tale of a cherry tree.
‘The Tree’ by Walter de la Mare is very wordy and is about a fruit merchant.
“He Made a Woman” by Marjorie Bowen – strange tale of scientists and magicians.
‘A Neighbour’s Landmark’ by M R James is long-winded with an underwhelming ending.
‘N’ by Arthur Machen has a good concept but took many pages to reach it.
In summary, this collection was disappointing for me but I’d recommend it if you’re looking for folklore stories about trees and nothing frightening.
Published in 2020.