Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

Synopsis: The book tells the story of a young boy named Diamond. He is a very sweet little boy who makes joy everywhere he goes. He fights despair and gloom and brings peace to his family. One night, as he is trying to sleep, Diamond repeatedly plugs up a hole in the loft (also his bedroom) wall to stop the wind from blowing in. However, he soon finds out that this is stopping the North Wind from seeing through her window. Diamond befriends her, and North Wind lets him fly with her, taking him on several adventures. Though the North Wind does good deeds and helps people, she also does seemingly terrible things. On one of her assignments, she must sink a ship. Yet everything she does that seems bad leads to something good. The North Wind seems to be a representation of Pain and Death working according to God's will for something good. (from the online description)

Review: This has all the lyrical prose of a Victorian Children’s Fairy Tale, whimsical and wholesome. It dangerously approached saccharine sermonizing – if not for the North Wind. Sometimes a Tall Woman with Dark Hair, sometimes a Wolf, or a Fairy, or an Unseen Breath, she is the most intriguing character in a fairy tale I have encountered in some time. Biden by her unnamed Master, she often does what seems cruel, causing pain, suffering, and even death. And yet, in the end, is it revealed that all she does is for the healing, the betterment, and the good fortune of people. She is neither callous nor wanton in her destruction, but precise and obedient, doing her duty with a single-minded service to her master. A the Back of the North Wind is a place, a place she cannot see or visit, but a place she often takes those she is bidden to carry there. It seems a place where neither time nor illness nor hungry nor suffering dwell.
Daylight is a bit too cherubic for my taste, but I related to his constant out-of-place nature. He doesn’t fit in but doesn’t seem to notice. It is thought Daylight was modeled after MacDonald’s own son, as a tribute to the boy.  His angelic goodness is off-set by the secondary characters, rough-and-tumble crowd, cabbies and street urchins, drunks and benevolent gentlemen. They seem real in a way Daylight does not. But perhaps that is the point.
This is a fantastic fairy tale, whimsical and imaginative, but with a somber ending that makes this far more than just a gossamer tale of nonsense for children.  To understand that pain and death are important teachers, vital to our life and growth, is a lesson worth teaching our children. MacDonald’s story helps explain this concept to children in a way that makes sense to them. And may help adults understand a concept that seems so contrary to our minds.    

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8167-0470-8
Year Published: 1871
Date Finished: 2-26-2017
Pages: 316

No comments:

Post a Comment