At the Back of the North Wind

At the Back of the North Wind

Everyman's Library Children's Classics
by George MacDonald, Arthur Hughes (Illustrator)
Library Binding, 346 pages
Price: $20.00

Historical Setting: 19th Century England

A Victorian fairy tale that has enchanted readers for more than a hundred years: the magical story of Diamond, the son of a poor coachman, who is swept away by the North Wind—a radiant, maternal spirit with long, flowing hair—and whose life is transformed by a brief glimpse of the beautiful country "at the back of the north wind." It combines a Dickensian regard for the working class of mid-19th-century England with the invention of an ethereal landscape, and is published here alongside Arthur Hughes's handsome illustrations from the original 1871 edition.

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  Better Than I Expected
Amanda Evans of Oregon, 2/23/2011
I started this book when I was young but didn't get more than a few chapters into it. Since Lewis and Tolkien atribute so much of their inspiration to George MacDonald, I wanted to give it a second try.

This time around I was a bit more inspired, but it was still slow going getting through it. Then, as is the case with so many older books, I began to really enjoy it once I got past the first two thirds or so. In the end it was quite poignant and sweet.

The writing style (naturally) is rather clunky and old-fashioned. The plot and action is understated while descriptions seem to go on for pages. However, it manages to be whimsical and fantastic while at the same time real and moralistic without providing the answers for any of it. Does the North Wind really visit Diamond and carry him in her arms through the night? Where do dreams come from? Does suffering hardships make good times more lovely? Within the pages of this book, even if life is perplexing, it is beautiful, good and worth living. I liked that instead of moralizing in this story, George MacDonald would subtly and sagaciously slip in values or little moral messages that were actually pretty profound.

I would not recommend this for young readers unless they have been raised to appreciate slow-paced and subtle literature. I will consider reading it aloud to my kids in a few years, but not until they've learned to sit through longer descriptive passages.