"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Friday, March 7, 2008

Same Old Story... Or Is It?

It’s a pity that finding George MacDonald in his unabridged entirety is almost impossible (unless, of course, you are willing to read online at a site like Project Gutenberg but I just can’t accept not having the feel of a book in my hands). I have read people who say he was not a very good writer and often rambled, but what exactly is meant by this I am unsure of. The unabridged fantasies and children’s stories I have read are perfectly fine for Victorian literature. I have a suspicion that what is meant is that authors now-a-days don’t write like that. A fairly obvious point; no one writes like Shakespeare now either.

All this to say I read another (abridged, of course) MacDonald Novel: A Quiet Neighborhood. One flaw I do find in MacDonald is that all his realistic stories start to sound the same after a while. A young gentleman (in this case and a few others a clergyman) falls in love with a beautiful (and usually rich) young lady and after a little mystery or family secret is cleared up they wed and live happily ever after. What keeps the invariable routine bearable after 15 novels are the inner dilemmas every MacDonald hero faces (and many of the minor characters as well).

In A Quiet Neighborhood Mr. Walton must struggle to find the purpose of his life and how to help those under his care. Helping others means, among other things, reconciling father to son, daughter to father, and interestingly, separating daughter from grandmother. There is an apparent contradiction here, perhaps intended by MacDonald. A quarter of the book is devoted to restoring the relationships of a family in Mr. Walton’s parish but the climax of the action is an elopement with the heroine, Miss Oldcastle, from her tyrannical, abusive grandmother.

The importance of relationships is definitely a major theme of the story. Apparently there are two sequels to this book that I hope to read some day.

No comments: