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At the Back of the North Wind

by George MacDonald
220 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Jeanne

A sweet, enchanting story with beautiful allegory and a timeless message.

Plot

This is the story of Diamond, the young son of a cab-man and his wife. At the beginning of the tale, he sleeps in a room over the stable and there meets the lady North Wind. She takes him and shows him the way through herself to reach her back - the back of the north wind.

Morality

Diamond is a model child because of his stay at the back of the north wind, and tries to be a help to his parents and to his young siblings. A few characters exhibit wrong behavior, the kind that is so frequent in the world, but Diamond is the one who shines with virtue and is the example for those reading the story.

One point addressed in the book is whether or not North Wind is still "good" when she does things that humans call catastrophic or horrible, such as sinking a ship. The discussion bears strong similarities to the debate over whether or not God is good when He sends natural disasters and the like.

Spiritual Content

At one point Diamond dreams of the angels. They are pictured more like Raphael's pictures than the mighty warriors shown in the Bible. There are a couple mentions of church and of church services, and there is the back of the north wind, which seems to be a picture of Heaven.

Violence

Diamond witnesses a group of boys fighting with a girl, and he joins the brawl in order to help her. North Wind sinks a ship and all but a few of the men on board perish. At another point in time she takes the shape of a wolf to frighten a wicked nursemaid.

Drug and Alcohol Content

The cabdriver who lives next door to Diamond's family is often drunk, but that is not condoned. Diamond's father has a little alcohol now and then, but is always sober.

Sexual Content

One mention of a young woman having a fiance, but nothing more.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Some of the stablehands use bad words in Diamond's hearing, but they are not written down and in time they grow ashamed of them and stop using them.

Conclusion

The Biblical parallels in this story are some of the most beautiful I have ever read, and it is easy to see how C.S. Lewis and other writers looked to MacDonald as their teacher. As an allegory or a fairytale-type story, not everything is sparklingly clear, but the heart of the book is as true as can be.

As for the actual writing, though MacDonald's style occasionally seems to ramble, his descriptions and dialogue are both captivating. His development of Diamond, too, was flawless; in creating role-model characters, it is easy for authors to make them appear dull and unbelievable, but MacDonald perfectly transitions Diamond from being a rather stupid, sweet child into being foolishly wise. It's not until you reach the end that you see how much Diamond has grown in the tale.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 11-12

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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