'I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.' L.M. Montgomery

'There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.' Irving Stone

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lurking on My Shelves

Thursday is a good day for meme's! There are two good ones for highlighting a book lurking, (languishing might be a better word, but hey, it's October!) on our shelves just waiting for us to pick it up and read. I couldn't decide which one to link to so I am linking to both!

Three dramatic novels from Scotland's beloved storyteller, George MacDonald. I adore his books. This edition is edited for today's modern language by Michael Phillips. Although they are much easier to read, its a joy to read an unedited copy of MacDonald's work in the victorian Scot's language!

This unforgettable trilogy depicts the spiritual awakening of curate Thomas Wingfold and the lives of those he touches: Surgeon Paul Faber believes in nothing but his own goodness until a beautiful patient reveals her secret past. Richard Tuke searches for the truth behind his mysterious heritage with the help of a thoughtful and independent woman. Filled with suspense and love, these novels reveal God's infinite and loving means of drawing hearts to himself.

Thomas Wingfold, Curate (retitled The Curate's Awakening)
Published in 1876
187 pages

Thomas is a shallow man with no personal faith, a man who plagiarized his sermons, a man with little personality, unequipped to occupy the pulpit and still less to lead even the humblest of his parishioners. And yet in spite of all this, Thomas Wingfold quickly endears himself to us, and we immediately sense MacDonald's own love for him. For Wingfold possessed the one quality which MacDonald revered above nearly all others - openness. His ears were not plugged with self-satisfaction and tradition but were ready to listen, ready to look for truth outside the usual boundaries, ready to learn from any quarter.

Wingfold is a personality totally asleep, but a man willing to listen and whose dormant heart loves the truth. When he is confronted by an atheist with the question, "Tell me honestly, do you really believe one word of all that?" the curate's complacency is dealt a lethal blow. There begins Wingfold's awakening and his moving journey into spiritual vitality.

Paul Faber, Surgeon (retitled The Lady's Confession)
Published in 1879
207 pages

Paul Faber is the atheist that questioned Wingfold's beliefs and the village doctor. In this book Wingfold and Faber become close friends. MacDonald looks deeper into the essence of sin itself, man's need, and the nature of man's heart in relation to God. Faber is the classic example of a 'good' man, more kindly and compassionate and loving than many so-called Christians. He sees no need for God. But his very goodness is also his downfall. For with his goodness comes a fierce pride which, as the story unfolds, reveals the spiritual and even moral bankruptcy of mere 'goodness'.

There and Back (retitled The Baron's Apprenticeship)
Published 1891
218 pages

In this book the question of do those without ugly and obvious sin need God, too? What about the Good man and woman? We follow the lives of Juliet and Paul, a man and woman with few apparent needs, but each, in fact, concealing a core of hidden sin.

Michael Phillips includes an informative introduction before each of the three novels.

A little background on George MacDonald (1824-1905) in Phillips words...
He was not the sort of writer who in our generation would be 'critically acclaimed' by the secular press or the Pulitzer committee. This is no reflection on his writing but simply on his priorities as an author. He is trying to accomplish something which runs counter to the values of our secular society. His message was essentially a spiritual one, and it is only in that context that he can be understood and his work fully appreciated. In each of his books, different facets of his vision of God's character emerge. Through no single one do we obtain the complete sum of MacDonald's perception of God, yet each contributes to the total picture.

George MacDonald often seemed to poke fun at organized religion. Christianity in England and Scotland during the late nineteenth century was, despite pockets of revival and great fervency, locked for the most part into the constricting doctrines of Calvinism carried to the extreme. God's wrath was severe and greatly to be feared, and woe to him who had not been born one of the 'chosen elect'.
In the midst of this legalism, MacDonald emerged with a warm view of a God of love and compassion. From the pulpit and the printed page, MacDonald proclaimed that God's essence was love. It was not, according to the outspoken Scotsman, God's will that any should perish, that any should be so far removed that He could not reach down and pour His love into him. MacDonald's writings portrayed an entirely contrasting picture of God - a tender and compassionate Father. Much of today's awareness of God's loving fatherhood has sprung from evangelical pioneers like MacDonald - men who dared stand against the tide of the commonly held views of God's character.

People flocked to MacDonald and devoured his writings because of the deeper sense of truth they found in them. However, MacDonald was scorned by official churchdom. He had rebelled against the established order and refused to relax his attacks upon the Phariseeism within the church in which he had been raise and in which he had unsuccessfully sought to become a leader. Trying to influence the system from within, he had been ousted because of his strong views. Thus he took his case directly to the public. And their response to his books affirmed the truths he believed in his heart.

I've read many of his books and still have several on my shelf to get to. I think I so love his work because he was a rebel at heart and dared to stand for the truth unwaveringly no matter the personal cost to him. Not only do his books tell me a rich, warm, engrossing story of peoples trials and tribulation, loves and losses in the 1800's, but my faith is always enlarged after reading one!

C.S. Lewis credits MacDonald with influencing his own work and his faith. Calling him his mentor.
And it's said that Paul Faber, Surgeon may have provided the germ for Thomas Hardy's classic published twelve years later, Tess of the D'urbervilles, for the plots are remarkably parallel except for the endings.

Whoa, I did rattle on didn't I? I do get excited about MacDonald. This book has been on my shelf for way too long and I need to get to it sooner than later. Next time I'll pick a 'lighter' book and keep my rantings to a minimum!

Check out what others have lurking on their shelves at

She is too fond of books


Bookshelf Fantasies


  1. This does sound fascinating! I'm so curious about the concept of a classic book having its language updated for modern readers. I wonder if it preserves the original tone and flavor. Looking forward to hearing more!

    1. I think Phillips does a really good job of keeping the tone, Lisa. I have several original copies and the Scots is quite heavy and not really conducive for mass appeal especially here in the States.

  2. I remember getting the edited version (The Curate's Awakening) back in the 80s and enjoying it very much. I glanced through the unedited version on Project Gutenberg and it seems quite readable, so I wonder if maybe Mr. Phillips just removed a lot of the excess verbage. You know those Victorians could get quite wordy! And my mom read us The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie when we were little and we had no problem understanding them. I think I'll read the unedited version of Thomas Wingfold, Curate and see if it's as good as I remember. Thanks for reminding me of it, Peggy.


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