At the Back of the North Wind [Age 8+]

by George MacDonald

CD sound recording, 2005

Barcode

6690

Call number

C 813 MAC

Status

Available

Call number

C 813 MAC

Description

Diamond, a young boy living in nineteenth-century London, has many adventures as he travels with the beautiful Lady North Wind and comes to know the many facets of her protective and violent temper.

Local notes

Innovative Audio Entertainment (Radio Theatre) "In Victorian London, the sickly son of a poor cab driver is suddenly carried away on an enchanting adventure by an unlikely companion: The North Wind. Over the London rooftops, across the sea and to the back of beyond, the boy encounters great wonders and profound mysteries. Is it merely his fevered imagination or are there secrets in this world we have yet to discover? Come on the journey of a lifetime and find out!" Approx. 123 minutes on two CDs.

Publication

Focus on the Family 2005

Original publication date

1871

Rating

(242 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member davegregg
At the start, for the first half of it, I struggled to push my way through "At the Back of the North Wind." I thought it tedious and drawn out. But by the time I had waded into the middle, I found I was swimming.I just finished this book, and I have to tell you, I have no way of using my tongue to convey how I feel and what this book has done in me. I sit without words, but without the ability to contain the rush of thought and emotion that crowd me on all sides. I look about and the only thing that can settle me and quiet me is a morning sunbeam passing through the curtains to the floor. Ach, that sounds so rhapsodic and romaunt. I'm caught up, and enjoying every minute of it, like a man in love. But though my worldly assessment of masculinity wants me to say no more and erase all this, how could I hide from you that bit of "mysticism" which I am presently enjoying?Well, let me try to do some justice to this thing we call a "review" and actually talk about the book. I have one thing to tell you primarily: complete the story. I read the last chapter twice. Mull it over. Let thoughts on the whole story come and give yourself time to think about them, to philosophize and wonder. And then digest your thoughts. This is one of the greatest stories of any kind I have ever known (of course, this is only my estimation), and it is thus no surprise to me that C.S. Lewis wrote what he did of MacDonald's story-making:"What he does best is fantasy—fantasy that hovers between the allegorical and the mythopoeic. And this, in my opinion, he does better than any man.... Most myths were made in prehistoric times, and, I suppose, not consciously made by individuals at all. But every now and then there occurs in the modern world a genius—a Kafka or a Novalis—who can make such a story. MacDonald is the greatest genius of this kind whom I know."—This from a professor of literature, at Cambridge.I felt like I had experienced a holy moment when I finished the very last sentence of the last chapter—though I wonder if later, my words here will seem surfeit, but I know they can't, because, as Diamond and the North Wind explain in the latter portion of the book: whether the dream is true or not, the thing it has done and the thing it stands for is true; and if the thing is true, mightn't we also say that the dream is "true"?"At the Back of the North Wind" did nothing less to me than to make me aware of the wondrous ordinary—that the ordinary is never actually ordinary, but full of wonders, for those willing to perceive them. It also made me ever more conscious of a different way of being, as I fell in love with the character of Diamond: one that is so contented in trust, and fulfilled in love, that it cannot but live for the good of others (finding not that its own pleasure and good is overlooked, but that the good of others becomes its own pleasure and good) and that it cannot even feign to fear anything (finding that it is always watched and always loved by capable hands and full heart).I will leave you to decide for yourself whether you will read the book. You will or you won't—there are other ways to come to these things yourself and other places to find great stories (though not many will be so transcendent). But I don't feel any embarrassment in admitting the influence this book and George MacDonald's other works, each in their own kind, have made on me.… (more)
LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
Moralizing fluff. It's unfortunate - the first part of the book, in Diamond's voice, is quite interesting. Totally weird (who said surrealism?) but good - Diamond accepts what he sees and deals with it on its own terms. But after he goes to the back of the North Wind, the author's voice starts intruding more and more - every time Diamond accepts and deals, the author reminds us "after all, this was a child who had been to the Back of the North Wind" (yes, I know that, thank you. I read the book. Shut up). He also (because we move out of his head and into a wider world) gets much more portrayed as a "God's Baby" - innocent and not quite right in the head. And by the last chapters, in which the author portrays himself and how he met Diamond, I was - OK, spoiler coming.

I was expecting him to die - the holy innocents never survive in these moral tales. And got what I expected.
It actually reads rather like Peter Pan (the original, not the Disney or similar versions), or even Black Beauty (the horse Diamond is also an important character). But both of those have much better stories and writing to back up their moralizing. A Victorian children's moral tale, that doesn't manage to surpass its basis and turn into a good story. I suppose I'm glad I read it, but it's not worth rereading.
… (more)
LibraryThing member empress8411
This has all the lyrical prose of a Victorian Children’s Fairy Tale, whimsical and wholesome. It dangerously approached saccharine sermonizing – if not for the North Wind. Sometimes a Tall Woman with Dark Hair, sometimes a Wolf, or a Fairy, or an Unseen Breath, she is the most intriguing character in a fairy tale I have encountered in some time. Biden by her unnamed Master, she often does what seems cruel, causing pain, suffering, and even death. And yet, in the end, is it revealed that all she does is for the healing, the betterment, and the good fortune of people. She is neither callous nor wanton in her destruction, but precise and obedient, doing her duty with a single-minded service to her master. A the Back of the North Wind is a place, a place she cannot see or visit, but a place she often takes those she is bidden to carry there. It seems a place where neither time nor illness nor hungry nor suffering dwell.
Daylight is a bit too cherubic for my taste, but I related to his constant out-of-place nature. He doesn’t fit in but doesn’t seem to notice. It is thought Daylight was modeled after MacDonald’s own son, as a tribute to the boy. His angelic goodness is off-set by the secondary characters, rough-and-tumble crowd, cabbies and street urchins, drunks and benevolent gentlemen. They seem real in a way Daylight does not. But perhaps that is the point.
This is a fantastic fairy tale, whimsical and imaginative, but with a somber ending that makes this far more than just a gossamer tale of nonsense for children. To understand that pain and death are important teachers, vital to our life and growth, is a lesson worth teaching our children. MacDonald’s story helps explain this concept to children in a way that makes sense to them. And may help adults understand a concept that seems so contrary to our minds.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Bourne444
I read a great deal as a child, and this was almost my favorite book. I remember reading it on a winter night, sitting in my outside sand box and feeling the cold, along with Diamond. (Of course we lived in Los Angeles, so it wasn't really all that cold.) But this book was part of the reason I grew up loving to read.
LibraryThing member nesum
"At the Back of the North Wind" is something wholly different than most of what I've read. It is a book of peace rather than conflict, which goes against the nature of plot as we know it. The only thing I can really compare it to is the slow windings of "Goodbye to a River" by John Graves, though the peace in that book is tinged with regret, while there is none of that here. I have rarely come across a character for whom I care so much as I do little Diamond. His simple, innocent, and true manner touches me deeply. This is one of those books that changes you, and for the better. I will treasure it always.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kathleen828
I came to MacDonald because of Lewis who loved him. I do not. I read this fairly recently, within the last 5 years, and, frankly, I did not like it. It's very Victorian, a mix of schmaltz and real tragedy.
LibraryThing member RRHowell
Far from my favorite book of MacDonald's but it grows on you with time. At least, it did for me.
LibraryThing member jessilouwho22
I had an unusually difficult time rating this one. This is really a 3.5 for me, but I'm feeling positive today, so it gets a four.

I think the trouble came from the fact that while I enjoyed this book and recognize it as a classic, I don't love it enough to rave about it. There wasn't much that I disliked about it. Sometimes the North Wind, and even Diamond at times, got on my nerves, but that was the only thing I disliked.

Other than that, I really enjoyed this book for the images that MacDonald created. George MacDonald is credited as one of the forefathers of the fantasy genre (specifically for children), and his originality shined through this story. The only way I can describe it is that at various points, it felt like a really awesome and vivid dream that I just didn't want to wake up from. One of my favorite scenes was the dream Diamond had about the little angels digging for stars. I just had this really clear and impressive picture in my head as he was describing his dream. So cool!

Another aspect that I particularly liked about this book was that, going into this, I knew that C.S. Lewis counted MacDonald as one of his biggest inspirations for the Narnia series, and as I was reading this, I would catch myself thinking, "Hmm...this feels awfully familiar." This was primarily evident through the usage of Christian allegory. He did it just right--it wasn't too preachy, but it was still obvious enough for the reader to catch it and understand it. It was definitely an interesting experience to read a story by an author that one of my favorite authors looked up to.

The language is a bit dated, but this would definitely be a good book to read to kids for a bedtime story. I'm telling you, it will lead to some pretty sweet dreams!
… (more)
LibraryThing member auntieknickers
I remember this as being rather hard going for a child. MacDonald was a major influence on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams and deserves reading, but modern children might find him a bit wordy.
LibraryThing member empress8411
This has all the lyrical prose of a Victorian Children’s Fairy Tale, whimsical and wholesome. It dangerously approached saccharine sermonizing – if not for the North Wind. Sometimes a Tall Woman with Dark Hair, sometimes a Wolf, or a Fairy, or an Unseen Breath, she is the most intriguing character in a fairy tale I have encountered in some time. Biden by her unnamed Master, she often does what seems cruel, causing pain, suffering, and even death. And yet, in the end, is it revealed that all she does is for the healing, the betterment, and the good fortune of people. She is neither callous nor wanton in her destruction, but precise and obedient, doing her duty with a single-minded service to her master. A the Back of the North Wind is a place, a place she cannot see or visit, but a place she often takes those she is bidden to carry there. It seems a place where neither time nor illness nor hungry nor suffering dwell.
Daylight is a bit too cherubic for my taste, but I related to his constant out-of-place nature. He doesn’t fit in but doesn’t seem to notice. It is thought Daylight was modeled after MacDonald’s own son, as a tribute to the boy. His angelic goodness is off-set by the secondary characters, rough-and-tumble crowd, cabbies and street urchins, drunks and benevolent gentlemen. They seem real in a way Daylight does not. But perhaps that is the point.
This is a fantastic fairy tale, whimsical and imaginative, but with a somber ending that makes this far more than just a gossamer tale of nonsense for children. To understand that pain and death are important teachers, vital to our life and growth, is a lesson worth teaching our children. MacDonald’s story helps explain this concept to children in a way that makes sense to them. And may help adults understand a concept that seems so contrary to our minds.
… (more)
LibraryThing member overthemoon
I never came across this book as a child and can't imagine what I'd have made of it if I had. The main character, a little cherub of a boy called Diamond, after the horse who sleeps in the stable below him, meets the North Wind, personified as a woman with long flowing hair, who blows in through a chink in the wall next to his bed. Returning time after time, she sweeps him off on various adventures around London and elsewhere, on her various missions that include punishing a drunken nurse and sinking a ship. At one point Diamond is taken to the Far North and goes through North Wind to a land of... well, I won't say, but he comes back most poetical and even sweeter than before. This is only about halfway through the book, and from that moment he takes to driving his father's cab and delighting everyone he meets, spreading goodness all around.
This is only one aspect of the tale, which also includes a separate fairy story, dreams, several poems and songs, and what I liked most about it, a picture of life in London in Victorian times: the horse-drawn cabs, children sweeping street crossings to make a little money, family life in different realms of society, a gruesome glimpse of poverty wrapped in a moralizing blanket.
It is a cake of sweet Victoria sponge sandwiched with jam and butter icing and topped with honey and marzipan - many layers, but you can only manage a small slice.
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LibraryThing member Bookish59
At the Back of the North Wind is a morality tale for young children and their parents. Did Macdonald seriously believe real children could in any way behave like Little Diamond? Hopefully not but I suppose he was providing a model for children to emulate. And for parents the lessons are simple, love your children, listen to them, guide them and set a good example. If you are in a position to help other children don't hesitate to do so.

While I enjoyed the old-fashioned quality of this novel, I don't know if I would read it to any of my young relatives as it was obvious how it will end. At the Back of the North Wind is not nearly as devastating as Andersen's The Little Match Girl. (I read that many years ago in a store, tearing up, and wondering who would read this to a child.) Thankfully Little Diamond has loving parents and friends.
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LibraryThing member Fscholl
Love all of George McDonald. Favorite line among many; p. 166; Some may think it was not the best place in the world for him to be brought up in; but it must have been, for there he was.
LibraryThing member meyben
Diamond, the coachman's son, is awaken by the North wind. Many adventures are awaiting him there.
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