Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Phantastes - A Book Review... Sorta

         I suppose this sorta counts as a book review... a very rambly one that shows why I don't write book reviews. ;) Since I was asked to report what I thought of Phantastes when I finished it, I figured I might as well fully ramble... and since I'm rambling, I might as well post on my blog since that's part of what this blog is for. ;)

    "The classic fantasy that influenced C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, considered one of George MacDonald’s most important works, is the story of the young man, Anodos, and his adventures in fairyland which ultimately reveal the human condition. “I write, not for children,” wrote George MacDonald, “but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.” All-at-once written with an innocent whimsy and soulful yearning, the heart of Anodos’ journey through fairyland reveals a spiritual quest that requires a surrender of the self." - From Amazon's description

         I read the book Phantastes by George MacDonald recently, and though it wasn't my usual type of thing, I enjoyed it. It was first published in 1858 and it shows that it is an older book, but in a good way I think. I'm more used to stories that toss you right in the middle of things - with action, motion, and quick orientation to something that's important to know about the main character - but this book took a slower, more *finds self wanting to wave hands as I search for the right words* ... a more descriptive, colorful route. It's not that it drags on and on - it's more like the whole tone suits it.

      If I had to choose a word to describe this book, it would probably be the word 'colorful' - its descriptions, history, characters, and creatures were prominent,( often described in wonder as the MC discovered them) but they felt like a real part of the world, not just added in for filler. 

     "I sat up in the boat. Gigantic forest trees were about me; through which, like a silver snake, twisted and twined the great river. The little waves, when I moved in the boat, heaved and fell with a plash as of molten silver, breaking the image of the moon into a thousand morsels, fusing again into one, as the ripples of laughter die into the still face of joy. The sleeping woods, in undefined massiveness; the water that flowed in its sleep; and, above all, the enchantress moon, which had cast them all, with her pale eye, into the charmed slumber, sank into my soul, and I felt as if I had died in a dream, and should never more awake.
- Chapter 10, page 67, Phantastes 

          Another thing that captured my attention was the poetry that was scattered throughout the entire book. Here is a small excerpt of a poem I especially enjoyed:

"Through the realms of the monarch Sun
Creeps a world, whose course had begun,
On a weary path with a weary pace,
Before the Earth sprang forth on her race:
But many a time the Earth had sped
Around the path she still must tread,
Ere the elder planet, on leaden wing,
Once circled the court of the planet's king."
 - Chapter 11, Page 77, Phantastes

          Now, the book as a whole wasn't "quick" reading, by any means. The story follows the wanderings of Anodos through Fairy Land, and goodness, he wanders all over the place and gets himself into all sorts of interesting predicaments, yet, he does so without a seeming purpose, except to continue onward. That of itself would've been enough to make me put down the book, but between the poetry and my curiosity of how the book would conclude, it kept me reading to the end. Ha, but that's just me. ;)

        I'd like to say that even if you don't think this sounds like something you'd read, at least borrow a copy and read chapter thirteen. Chapter thirteen is a short story of sorts, and was my favorite part in the entire book. *Fumbles again, trying to think of how to explain, without giving away the whole story...* 

    Potential spoilers to follow within whited out text (Highlight text with your mouse to read.) I think what I loved so much about that little story, was that it showed true self sacrifice. The main character fell in love with a woman, and he sought to better himself in order to care for her, though she could not reciprocate. In the end, he chooses to do what's best for her, even though it potentially means losing her forever. He could've selfishly kept her with him, and he does for an instant hesitate, but he seeks to do what's best, even though he doesn't want to lose her. He says, "I will not wait to be willing." He loved her more than his own selfish wants, and didn't wait to /feel/ ready - he sought to do what was right at the moment it was needed. That's why I liked that story, even though - warning - it's sad. Well worth reading though, in my opinion.  *End of potential short story spoilers*

     So that is what I thought of Phantastes.  :)  Here is a free Kindle addition I found, if you're interested in reading it that way.

     Have you read Phantastes? If so, what did you think of it? Have you been reading any especially good books lately? *Grins* I'm always on the look-out for a good book recommendation - how else do you think I ended up reading Phantastes?

        Happy reading!

~Ophelia - Marie 


  1. So glad you enjoyed the book, Ophelia. :) It's now one of my favorites...

    1. :D It was worth reading, so I'm glad you recommended it so strongly. ;)


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