Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book LOVE - George MacDonald - The Fisherman's Lady and The Marquis' Secret

Let's talk classic!!

George MacDonald (1824-1905) wrote a LOT of books. He was born shortly after Jane Austen's time, he came before JRR Tolkien, right about when the Bronte sisters. W. H. AudenJ. R. R. TolkienC. S. LewisE. Nesbit and Madeleine L'Engle all mentioned him as inspiration per Wikipedia:

It was C. S. Lewis who wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his "master": "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later," said Lewis, "I knew that I had crossed a great frontier." G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had "made a difference to my whole existence."
Elizabeth Yates wrote of Sir Gibbie, "It moved me the way books did when, as a child, the great gates of literature began to open and first encounters with noble thoughts and utterances were unspeakably thrilling."[2]Even Mark Twain, who initially disliked MacDonald, became friends with him, and there is some evidence that Twain was influenced by MacDonald.[3]

(I find the idea of authors arguing before becoming friends is entertaining!! I can see how Mark Twain & George MacDonald might not have hit it off right away!!  Talk about different!!)

I mentioned The Princess & The Goblin as one of my childhood fav's for the current Giveaway. I think I like the second, The Princess & Curdie, even better (Curdie thrusts his hands in the fire!) I have both of 'em in my library along with a book of fantastical short stories like The Wise Woman who steals a spoiled brat of a princess to teach her manners and The Light Princess who has no gravity to hold her down, both literally and characteristically. They're short, imaginative stories that hardly seem to belong to over 100 years ago.

More Wikipedia fun:
MacDonald also served as a mentor to Lewis Carroll (the pen-name of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson); it was MacDonald's advice, and the enthusiastic reception of Alice by MacDonald's many sons and daughters, that convinced Carroll to submit Alice for publication. Carroll, one of the finest Victorian photographers, also created photographic portraits of several of the MacDonald children.
He knew lots of people:
MacDonald was acquainted with most of the literary luminaries of the day; a surviving group photograph shows him with TennysonDickensWilkie CollinsTrollopeRuskinLewes, and Thackeray. While in America he was a friend ofLongfellow and Walt Whitman.

He wrote a bunch of Contemporary Romances, too, besides his amazing fantastical books - contemporary for his day. I think he lived off of writing these stories, actually. I was able to get one of those huge Nook volumes of all MacDonald's books for $.99.  (It's big!!)

I've been thinking about two of his books in particular this week. It is because of George MacDonald that I love Scotland and feel familiar with tiny fishing villages in Scotland. It's his fault I am so thrilled to be back there in The Lure of Shapinsay. Specifically...

The Fisherman's LadyThe Fisherman's Lady
by George MacDonald
Paperback, Philips Redaction, 278 pages
Published 1991 by Bethany House Publishers (first published 1875)

The discovery of a woman's body in an old house overlooking the sea leads to revelations concerning Malcolm MacPhail, a Scottish fisherman.

The Marquis' SecretThe Marquis' Secret
by George MacDonald
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 1st 1982 by Bethany House Publisher

An authentic Scottish nobleman, yet humbly plying the trade of fisherman and groom. A haughty half-sister, craving attention and position. A noble lady, unaware that the humble fisherman who loves her is in reality the Marquis of Lossie. 
In his first book, THE FISHERMAN'S LADY, the new marquis, Malcolm, discovers his true identity; but for very important reasons of his own, he continues to live as the simple fisherman whom the villagers know and love. His chief task is to fulfill his promise to his late father in caring for his headstrong half-sister, Florimel. Enamored by high society and its dark temptations, she succumbs to the charm of an unworthy suitor. How can Malcolm rescue her without revealing the devastating truth concerning her own past? Will Florimel ever be able to accept the truth, so Malcolm can step into his rightful inheritance as the Marquis of Lossie? Will Malcolm ever be accepted by the beautiful lady of his heart? Will she lose the Marquis by overlooking the fisherman? The story of a truly unselfish man, struggling to live in a selfish world.
My Opinion:

These are two books I can't really review properly. I'm already fan-girlin' at an enthusiastic level and love the books right off the charts... not to mention, I've read them over 3x, at least.

Malcolm is one of the most amazing guys anywhere. This premise contains major spoilers because who he is plays such a big part of the books. The amazing thing is how he treasures his humble beginnings. He views the world through the eyes of a Scottish small-town fisherman always... although even when he was a poor barefoot orphan boy, he treated everyone as "someone special".

I love bagpipes because of these books. Malcolm's grandfather is such a great character, hiding secrets like so many of the people here. The layers of secrets are thick -n- heavy from the Marquis' castle to the town witch. And everyone threatens to take their secrets with them to the grave.

One of my favorite scenes is when Malcolm is sitting with Florimel and another beautiful lady and he takes off running to dive into a lake to rescue a bird that was stuck on something... and then dips in the ocean to wash off the lake water before rejoining the ladies. Like jumping into water fully clothed is No Big Deal. And ocean water is cleaner than fresh water.

The romance is very subtle and unexpected. Both of the romances, I should say. They all spend some time in London, which reminded me of Jane Austen's characters visiting there, with the young people getting together at each other's houses.

George MacDonaldI think everyone should find their favorite among George MacDonald's books!!  

I'm curious... have you read any of his books?  Did you already know about him? 

Before writing this post, I hadn't realized who he was friends with. And I didn't know about him mentoring Lewis Carroll. I discovered his books when CS Lewis spoke so highly of him and my library (in Mesa, AZ) stocked so many of his books, I worked my way through all the YA fantasy books and then read every adult contemp they had.

I can't remember the name of the spooky one with the ghostly lady traveling through the secret passageways in the castle - does anyone remember which one that is?!  It's really bothering me that I can't remember!!  And these premises on Goodreads & Amazon are super-sparse. He wrote so many books, it's tricky figuring out which one is which!!  And they're not, like, zippy reading. They were written in the late 1800's!!!