William Horwood biography and books reviewed

William Horwood is an English author born in Oxford on the 12th of May 1944. He was brought up on the south-east coast of England and attended Bristol University where he graduated with a degree in Geography. The works for which he is best known are the best-selling Duncton Mole trilogies and the sequels to Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.

Horwood worked as a teacher, journalist and news reporter during a varied career before the publication of Duncton Wood in 1980. The book became an international bestseller and he has not looked back since. The Duncton and Willows books are loved by both children and adults alike and draw favourable comparisons with Richard Adam's Watership Down.

I was a fan from the age of eight and I discovered them because my mum read them to me. She was brought up in Oxford and Kenneth Graham was very much an Oxford person so there was that connection and I always loved the stories, his ideas and so on.
William Horwood on The Wind in The Willows during an interview with Harper Collins.

The Duncton books consisted of two trilogies, The Duncton Chronicles and The Book of Silence, and where written between 1980 and 1993. The books follow the magical and spiritual journeys of a community of moles belonging to the Duncton Wood system.

But then again when I finished the first Duncton book I swore I’d never write another Duncton book again and now there are five more.
William Horwood interview with Harper Collins.

William Horwood's other notable works include The Stonor Eagles, Callanish and Skallagrigg. is the most comprehensive website on William Horwood and his work - the perfect place to visit if you are looking for a great deal more information on the author.

The Duncton Chronicles - inspiration and acknowledgement

The Boy with No Shoes

The Boy With No Shoes is the deeply moving memoir of author William Horwood. It is the story of an extraordinary journey from a past too painful to imagine to a future every child deserves.

Based on best-selling novelist William Horwood’s own heartbreaking boyhood in south-east England after the Second World War, this is a triumphant story of a boy’s struggle with early trauma and his remarkable journey into adulthood. Using all the skills the went into the creation of his modern classics Duncton Wood, Skallagrigg and The Willows in Winter, Horwood has painted an unforgettable picture of childhood suffering, personal survival and the power of faith and courage to turn darkness into light.

The title of the book comes from a moment in the author’s childhood when his real father gave him a pair of shoes, the only present he had ever, until that point, received. His cruel half brother and cousin took and hid away the shoes - it was an event that stayed with him for the rest of his life. Before the book has even started, Horwood says that he would exchange the enormous success of his later novels to have known that identity of his real father and to have ‘held his hand, if only for a moment’.

The cruelty and neglect that Horwood suffered during childhood was marked, leading to depression and a phobia of rain. The story shows how important friends and family are in the shaping of a youngster’s life. Mr & Mr Bubbles, Arthur Sanders, Mr Wharton and Granny are names that will never be forgotten.

The window was a picture of mountains, peaks and valleys, shadowed cliffs and patches of green on which the sun was rising fast. They were so high I thought it would take a lifetime to reach the top of them. Stoning and the waves on the shingle beach seemed far away.
‘Those mountains are where Edmund Hilary practised before he went to climb Everest,’ said Uncle Max. ‘That big one is called Snowdon and all together they’re called Snowdonia.’

From: The Boy With No Shoes by William Horwood

The book’s ending is wonderful, if it wasn’t true then it would have to be classed as far-fetched, an uplifting experience that will stay with the reader forever.

The only shame is that there are not more references to the inspirations that lead to the writing of the beautiful Duncton Chronicles. Luckily, a joyous trip to Snowdonia, the learning of flowers names on the dunes near his coastal town provides an insight into this.

The sun shone on the white cliffs of the East Kent coast and all along my shingly shore. I stood and stared and thought a long, long time. I remembered a boy running from a man with shears, I remembered a locked gate, I remembered a hand holding mine in the time long ago; and a pair of shoes that I lost and couldn’t find.

From: The Boy With No Shoes by William Horwood

"An absolute spell-binder, by Lord of the Rings out of Watership Down. I found it enchanting, compulsive reading ... I am still haunted by its beauty" Magnus Magnusson

"His mole empire is a delight, his romantic tale full of adventure, suspense, battle and searchings" Publishers Weekly

"Altogether, Duncton Wood is a breathtaking achievement" Washington Post

William Horwood reviews

Spring by William Horwood

If there is one author I like to recommed as often as possible, it is William Horwood. He is a wonderful writer who, in Hyddenworld: Spring, has written a wonderful book, it was a delight to read and I was not alone in welcoming him back to the genre that has been poorer for his absence.

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Awakening by William Horwood

When Hyddenworld: Spring - the first book in the Hyddenworld series - was released in February 2010 it was met with a largely positive response. Most loved it, many liked it, some thought it was OK but it should also be mentioned that there was a small handful that were left rather underwhelmed by William Horwood's first fantasy release in sixteen years. For those who fell under the charm of the first book (of whom this reviewer is one) I am delighted to say that the second book is even better. With the groundwork for the story having already been lain, and the characters now having life of their very own, the reader can now simply sit back and allow Horwood's elegant writing to wash over them. This book's narrative is a thing of rare beauty which allows the author's obvious love for his work to transmit over to and into the reader.

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Harvest by William Horwood

It is August, time of the first harvest, traditional time of plenty. But at the farthest reaches of the Hyddenworld, in sea-bound Englalond, disaster looms. A blight in the land is growing, marked by quakes and increasingly unnatural blizzards. Judith is tasked with healing the land, but this burden is almost unbearable. Lonely and lovelorn, she threatens to reap a terrible harvest of her own. Yet a trio of hydden travellers hold out hope – for both the land and the war threatening the hydden people. For Jack and Katherine, Judith’s parents, the shadow of the hydden Empire’s army looms large. They must muster allies or it will mean disaster for the city of Brum. And only Bedwyn Stort, Brum’s famed scrivener, has the courage to unravel a secret that could heal their world. The lost gem of Autumn must be found and Stort must risk death to seek it. Only his love for Judith will give him the will to endure – and bring her the gem she needs to tame the wild earth.

"I love this series and the first and biggest compliment I can give is that this reading is my third - not many series compel me to re-read on this scale. There is even a more than fair chance that there will be a fourth, fifth, even sixth re-read before I am sated. The reason? I love the way William Horwood writes, he makes me love the country of my birth, and I simply love the stories he tells. This series isn’t perfect but it is very, very good."

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Winter by William Horwood

Storms rage as the worst winter in living memory ravages the human and Hydden worlds. The prophesied End of Days is here and the universe is dying, yet only a few are even aware of the forces at work. Jack and Katherine must help their friend Bedwyn Stort halt this chaos by locating the last gem of Winter, something only he can do. Then it must be returned to the Earth’s unwilling guardian, their daughter Judith. She will need it to try and reignite the fires of the universe. Yet Stort is riddled with uncertainty. He yearns for Judith, as she does for him, but a love between mortal and immortal cannot be. To find the gem, he must solve this conundrum and vanquish death itself. But can he really lead mortalkind to salvation?

"It was a quartet of books I thoroughly enjoyed reading and I looked forward excitedly to each instalment's yearly publication. If you're a fan of Horwood, or simply a fan of excellent stories, particularly those with a strong ecological theme running through, then I would strongly recommend you read the Hyddenworld books. The journey has been a delight, the characters wonderful and the the story woven beautifully."

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Skallagrigg by William Horwood

Unites Arthur, a little boy abandoned many years ago in a grim hospital in northern England, with Esther, a radiantly intelligent young girl who is suffering from cerebral palsy, and with Daniel, an American computer-games genius.

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Duncton Wood by William Horwood

Some authors write beautifuly and can induce an almost meditive state in the reader. Tolkien, Hobb, Le Guin, Martin can achieve this, and so can William Horwood. There are two books on the site that generate an effusive outpouring of love from readers, two books which will be well know to some but perhaps not as widely known as many books on this list, they are Swan Song by Robert McCammon and Duncton Wood. It is the moving love story of Bracken and Rebecca and the trials they must face and overcome to be as one. It is unfortunate that this work must be compared to Watership Down but that is the only book with which I can really compare it to in terms of story-line and excellence. Read my review and the reader reviews below it if you want to get a real sense of how highly this book is regarded.

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Duncton Quest by William Horwood

Duncton Wood was a wonderful book and so is its sequel. William Horwood does not take the easy path in keeping with the characters that readers would know and love from the first book but presents a whole new cast charged with enthralling the characters as their predecessors did. The animal kingdom is savage and brutal and this is forever the case in Duncton Quest, a far darker and brooding book than the far from light-hearted prequel. Death, disease and the loss of hope and faith are the themes that stand out, any small success or happiness comes at a cost. In Tryfan and Spindle we are given lead characters that are as memorable as Bracken and Boswell, Henbane every bit as menacing as the evil Mandrake.

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Duncton Found by William Horwood

On a personal level, I also felt a connection to several areas of landscape mentioned in the novel since many principle events occur in the Derbyshire dales, an area of great natural splendour who's essence Horwood captures magnificently, and indeed my familiarity with that part of the country made those events even more real. Duncton Found is not a casual or easy book, and is far less accessible than Duncton Quest. For those who read Duncton Quest simply as an adventure story, or skipped over passages of spiritual significance, or for those who do not like the idea of bloody, shocking and unexpected things happening to beloved main characters this is likely not the right book. If however someone is able to appreciate all elements of Duncton Found, and bear in mind how each element, each chapter, each character and each passage contributes to those around it, then they will be in for a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience. Duncton Found is one of the best examples of a book where the committed reader, or indeed rereader is rewarded, but where the casual reader will find themselves left out.

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