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At the Back of the North Wind (Everyman's Library Children's Classics) Hardcover – October 16, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

A Victorian fairy tale that has enchanted readers for more than a hundred years: the magical story of Diamond, the son of a poor coachman, who is swept away by the North Wind-a radiant, maternal spirit with long, flowing hair-and whose life is transformed by a brief glimpse of the beautiful country "at the back of the north wind." It combines a Dickensian regard for the working class of mid-19th-century England with the invention of an ethereal landscape, and is published here alongside Arthur Hughes's handsome illustrations from the original 1871 edition.

About the Author

George MacDonald (1824—1905) was a prolific writer, yet it is his fantasies for children that have survived. A minister of the Congregational church, MacDonald resigned after a disagreement with his deacons and from 1853 earned his living by lecturing and writing.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Series: Everyman's Library Children's Classics
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library (October 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375413359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375413353
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Krischke VINE VOICE on January 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book reminded me a great deal of "The Little Prince" by Antoine Saint-Exubery, the main difference being that the underlying philosophy here is Christian, as opposed to the Easternish philosophy of the former book. Like "The Little Prince", it speaks quietly and simply of things that are so true we tend to overlook or forget them. Unlike the mentioned book, this one brings in harsher elements, such as poverty and abuse -- and shows how the simple wisdom of a child can overcome them. MacDonald's imagination is wonderful, and some of the dreams and fairy tales in the book almost outshine the "real" story. I love the children who dig for stars. This is one I enjoyed because it is so different, so simple and beautiful, and one I look forward to sharing with my children, should I ever have any.
PS - My sister read an edited, abridged version of this book, one rewritten to make it easier for children, and it was awful. It skipped whole chapters and left out some of the very best parts. I think kids can handle this book, just the way it was written. Stay away from nasty abridgements that are really censorship in disguise!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've never read anyone who writes quite like MacDonald. When you read him it is not the quality of his writing, but rather his personality (kindly and eccentric, at the same time so quintessentially Scotch)and immensely powerful and original imagination that show on the page. He is more an excellent storyteller than a "proper" author, I think.
In the North Wind, as in much of MacDonald's work, there is a wealth of moral and religous themes and analougies under the surface. In my mid 20's now, I was surprised at the effect that reading MacDonald's childrens books has had on me. It is not that I would have disagreed on an intellectual level with anything in the books before reading them, but rather that McDonald has a talent for gently bringing people to examine what their opinions mean and how they treat other people as a result of them. I've found more than a few chinks in my own armour, in that respect.
As for North Wind in particular, it's quite a breathtaking, display of raw, imaginative brawn. The first third or so of the book is perhaps one of the most chilling and beautiful stories I've ever read. It becomes a little more conventional after that and meanders a little. There is a good bit of amiable nonsense and a fairy tale within it that, though it seems a little tacked on and has nothing to do with the greater story, is still very clever and charming. I think most adults will see the ending coming, but it left me a little shaken up anyway.
Like some of the other reviewers have mentioned, it's a very hard thing to create a character who is absoulutely good. There is a real danger of making the character into a weak, simpering, priggish, goody two shoes.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This enchanting classic is as lively and moving to read as the day it was written. There is no Victorian stodginess or moralizing here. I remember reading an essay where Simone Weil lamented over the difficulty of portraying goodness in literature--in fiction evil seemed to dominate. Well here in the character of the lad Diamond is one of the most convincing evocations of human goodness and saintliness in literature, childrens' or adult. One is reminded of St. Francis of Assisi when contemplating Diamond; his purity, innocense, and unselfconsciousness float right off the page. I especilly call your attention to the dialogue between Diamond and his mother on the beach as she tries hopelessly to explain to him that now they are poor. His sublimely worldly (and yet otherworldly )responses are both hilarious and deeply moving. One of MacDonald's core beliefs, so often and passionately stated throughout his writings, is here given flesh and blood: goodness is truth.
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Format: Hardcover
This children's book has had a profound impact on my faith and spirituality. It is a book I have read and re-read over the years, especially when I am struggling with my faith. The story, Diamond's relationship with the North Wind, satisfies one on an almost mystical level. Its simple, beautiful story leaves one knowing that no matter what happens in the world, God is God; and we can rest assured that He is in control. We can be at peace, in spite of the pain and evil in the world.
Don't look for answers. Simply read the story and let it wash over you. If you have the faith of a child, you will not be unaffected.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am quite ready to add At the Back of the North Wind to my collection of masterpieces that shall remain close to me, I suspect, my entire life. While a collection of favorite books by C. S. Lewis' site largest on that shelf, At the Back of the North Wind will be the second book by George MacDonald to join them. This seems quite appropriate as Lewis himself held MacDonald in such high esteem, even calling him his `master.' While more childish than Phantastes, At the Back of the North Wind manages to enchant my imagination in the same way that Narnia always has, while upon first inspection the tale may seem to be of little substance to a more mature audience I think there is subtle depth hidden within the deceptively simple child whom the story centers upon.

Diamond is the young boy of a poor coach driver and his wife living in England during the late 1800's. The story begins in the hayloft above the horse stalls where Diamond sleeps, as the wind blows, but it is not a simple wind, it is the North Wind, the romantic and enchanting idea of a grand lady who is the north wind. Diamond, the infinitely innocent and pure child is beckoned into the air and weaved into many journeys with the north wind where he learns goodness, truth and beauty. Throughout the story, other people see him as quietly wise or as one of `God's Babies.' As the story progresses Diamond becomes week and ill and while being taken to the enchanted country at the back of the North Wind he lapses into unconsciousness. Diamond returns, and with what strength he has, blesses everyone whom he meets; helping his family by driving his father's cab while he is ill, saving an orphaned friend off the streets, even quieting the drunken man's baby who lives next to him, whom even mistakes him for an angel.
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