Saturday, June 21, 2008

George MacDonald

After a bit of an absence, I'm ready to write again -- about books! I've been meaning to post a review for a while now, about a book recommended to me by a girl in our youth group, Beth Bloom. The book, The Marquis' Secret, is the sequel to The Fisherman's Lady, so I found both of these out of print books on Book Mooch, and took Beth up on her recommendation.

Originally, these books were published under the titles Malcolm and The Marquis of Lossie, but have since been reissued and edited by Michael Phillips, who updated the Scottish-speak that might be difficult to maneuver through for the modern American reader. I've heard that the originals are quite worth it, but someone who has read them will have to speak up on that point, because I've only read these modernized versions. The books have not lost their classic Gothic feel through all the editing. You may still shiver at the wicked Barbara Catanach, who is the local midwife (or is she a witch?), thoroughly endear yourself to Duncan MacPhail, the blind piper who wakes the village each morning by the clock he keeps in his head with the loud wail of his bagpipes, and become smitten with Malcolm, the main character of both books.

Malcolm is really the wonderful part of these books. MacDonald makes his hero so honest, so true, so steadfast, that he is not really real, but better than real -- ideal. I have often said that I love a book where at least one character is set forth as truly good and noble, because our hearts long for true goodness just as we long for Christ, and his true goodness. Malcolm is truly good -- not that MacDonald is writing an analogy with Malcolm as the Christ character -- but a worthy hero nonetheless.

I do not know what MacDonald believed about Reformed theology, but in a couple accounts, it seems to indicate that he saw the old "Calvanists" to be narrow-minded and unloving (perhaps that can be true too often!). Malcolm has a dear friend, Alexander Graham, who is an ex-preacher, and now teaches school. It is not entirely clear why Graham has been forced to quit his parish, but it seems to be because he had theological differences with the strict parishioners. Graham is Malcolm's truest companion and guiding force, and seems to speak for the author in matters of faith.

C.S. Lewis says "I never wrote a book in which I did not quote George MacDonald." Try out these old Gothic romances and see for yourself why Lewis loved him so! Great recommendations, Beth!


Caitlin said...

Thanks so much for the book, Ms. Gretchen, I'm already half way through it! :) I just can't put it down! See you on Wednesday...

Anonymous said...

now I totally want to read it :)


Gretchen said...

Yay, Caitlin, I'm glad you like it! You'll have to give me an update.

Anna, didn't I give you something by George MacDonald on your summer reading list?