Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Summer Reading: Princesses, Goblins, and Gaskell

Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means! Time for summer reading lists! So many books to read and so little time to read them as I'll have to squeeze them In between learning new music, now that my recital is over (and it went very well, in case you were wondering), working two jobs, and studying for my comprehensive exams next fall. But I'll hopefully have time for at least two or three! I've also become a fan of audio books lately, and since I'll be commuting for part of the summer, I think I'll be able to "read" several books that way.

One of the authors with whom I've really been wanting to acquaint myself for several years is George MacDonald (1824-1905), particularly via his book The Princess and the Goblin. Why? Mainly because of the high regard C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton have for him. 

"I for one can really testify to a book that has made a difference to my whole existence, which helped me to see things in a certain way from the start; … of all the stories I have read, it remains the most real, the most realistic, in the exact sense of the phrase the most like life. It is called ‘The Princess and the Goblin’, and is by George MacDonald..." -- G.K. Chesterton.

"I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him." -- C.S. Lewis

Who was George Macdonald? A Scottish author, poet, husband, and father to eleven children.  He was also briefly a congregationalist minister, though he was pressured to resign his pastorate in 1853 due to certain beliefs he held that conflicted with his profession. He wrote approximately 51 books during his lifetime, including thirty novels, two fantasies for adults, five fantasy books for children, five collections of sermons, six poetry collections, and three books of literary criticism. He is quoted to have said, "I write, not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five."

The Princess and the Goblin is a fairy tale which tells the story of young Princess Irene and her friend Curdie, the son of a minor, who together must outwit the evil goblins who live in caves beneath her mountain home. From the reviews I've been perusing, it seems that the author uses a didactic style of writing similar to C.S. Lewis' style in The Chronicles of Narnia (Though MacDonald preceded Lewis), which I really like when it is used well.

So there's one of them! Another book I'm very much hoping to read this summer is Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), born Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson, was an English novelist and short story writer in Victorian England. She is known for her biography of her friend Charlotte Brontë and penned six novels in addition to several short stories. Her first novel, Mary Barton, won the admiration of Charles Dickens, who invited her to contribute to his magazine Household Words, where her next work Cranford was serialized. Gaskell's novel North and South was published in 1854.

If I were to compare it to another genre or author, I would say this is what might happen if one merged the social commentary found in Charles Dickens with the beloved romance stories of Jane Austen, specifically Pride and Prejudice. (No, it is not about the Civil War, as I thought when I first heard the title). North and South follows the story of the woman Margaret Hale, a 19-year-old woman from the rural southern village of Helstone, England whose family is suddenly uprooted to the northern industrial city of Milton at the bidding of her father, a former Anglican minister who abandons the church on a matter of conscience. Here she meets the formidable self-made gentleman, Mr. John Thornton, a wealthy owner of one of the many cotton mills in Milton. Complicated emotions of dislike and attraction ensue while the social conflicts which accompanied the Industrial Revolution erupt around them.

I first heard about this one via my friend Teresa, and then was captivated by the new BBC miniseries adaption from 2004 starring Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton (Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit; Guy of Gisbourne in the recent Robin Hood tv series), Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale, and Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates from Downton Abbey) as Nicholas Higgins. Depending on how you like to fall in love with a good story, whether watching a film adaption first or reading the book first (or both at the same time), here is a good adaption and a good book with which to become acquainted! I'm certainly planning to acquaint my family with this story over the summer, one way or another!


Hannah D. said...

I'm going to read both! Been meaning to read North and South for a while, but I have never heard of the Princess and the Goblin. Thanks :)

Emily Starr said...

You're welcome, Hannah! I have Regina Doman (FUS grad, author of the Fairy Tale novels and co-author of the book Catholic Philosopher Chick) to thank for the Princess and the Goblin. She mentions George MacDonald in one of her books!