This book took me ages to finish. I picked it up towards the end of May, but only finished it on the 4th of August. I wanted to read this book because C.S. Lewis, one of my favourite authors of all time, wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his ‘master’. Next to Lilith, Phantastes and The Princess and the Goblin are probably MacDonald’s most famous (children’s) books. Want to see what I thought of Lilith?
Title | Lilith. A Romance
Author | George MacDonald
Published | 1895
Language | English
Pages | 220
Goodreads | ★★★★
Book Depository | paperback editionSummary
It is the story of Mr Vane, an orphan and heir to a large house – a house in which he has a vision that leads him through a large old mirror into another world. In chronicling the five trips Mr Vane makes to this other world, MacDonald hauntingly explores the ultimate mystery of evil. (Goodreads)First sentence:
I took a walk on Spaulding’s Farm the other afternoon.
I downloaded Lilith as an eBook from Gutenberg. If you’re a fan of classics and have an eReader, this is certainly a very useful website! Lilith tells the tale of Mr Vane and his travels to a fantastic world in which Adam, Eve and Lilith (Adam’s first wife according to various beliefs) live. Mr Vane ultimately has to lead the inhabitants of this world into battle against the evil Lilith.
Lilith is considered among the darkest of MacDonald’s works, and among the most profound. It is a story concerning the nature of life, death, and salvation. (Wikipedia)
If you follow me on Goodreads you might have followed my reading process of Lilith and then you might already know that I loved the book right from the start, but that around page 100 I got a bit lost. It took me some pages to get back on track, but from then on I read it almost in one sitting.
It most certainly is not a book that you can read without your full attention. Sometimes the story seems to develop very slowly, a moment later you’ll find yourself flicking back through the pages because you missed something. However, it is a good – weird and fantastic but good – story and I enjoyed it very much.
‘You know nothing about whereness’.
‘No one can say he is himself, until first he knows that he IS, and then what HIMSELF is. In fact, nobody is himself, and himself is nobody.’
If you’ve read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, you might find MacDonald’s style of writing often quite similar to Lewis Carroll’s. (Not to mention that, just like Alice in Through the Looking-Glass, the main character in Lilith is entering a fantastic world through a mirror.) They were, in fact, contemporaries and good friends. MacDonald’s children were the first to read the manuscript of Alice Underground (which later became Alice in Wonderland) and loved it so much that they persuaded Lewis to get it published. He frequently photographed the MacDonald family.
My boy,’ I answered, ‘there is no harm in being afraid. The only harm is in doing what Fear tells you. Fear is not your master! Laugh in his face and he will run away.
Morn, with the Spring in her arms, waited outside. Softly they stole in at the opened door, with a gentle wind in the skirts of their garments.
The story is weird, but fascinating and more than once it reminded me of Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. One sentence in particular reminded me of The Last Battle, the last volume of the The Chronicles of Narnia: ‘I was in the land of thought – farther in, higher up than the seven dimensions, the ten senses.’ ‘Farther in, higher up’, is literally quoted in The Last Battle when Aslan urges all the Narnians to go to the most inner Narnia.
If you love The Chronicles of Narnia and the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien and Carroll and looking for a bit of weirdness, I would heartily recommend Lilith!
Have you read anything by George MacDonald?