Once upon a time, several years ago, when Amy and I made lists of books for ourselves and each other to read, there was one joint read on that list. Finally, at the end of 2012, we read it! That book? Lilith by George MacDonald (1895).
I think part of my motivation to read it stemmed from Hutchmoot that year, either the assigned reading leading up to it or something stated at the actual event. I read a couple other MacDonald books, and I quite liked them. (Phantastes (which I never got around to reviewing, but I took copious notes about) and At the Back of the North Wind)
My expectations going into this book were pretty high, I think, which ended up being a problem (as it so often is).
I found some bright spots in this story. The beginning was good, it started off well and my excitement continued to rise.
Several vignettes I quite liked. But as a whole, I didn’t really love it. For a very short book (236 pages in this edition), it took me nearly two weeks to get through, if I remember correctly.
I liked how MacDonald took the concept of growth (spiritual, emotional, whatever) and made it physically visible. That was kinda neat. But such a small piece of the story, it seemed. And there’s this dangerous area of the world/landscape that, at night, is filled with dangerous monsters, but certain characters simply *had* safe passage because of some aspect of their character, while others acted as a shield to a group. It was a really beautiful image, I thought, how that was worked out.
Now the not-so-good stuff. I really feel like the tagline :: A Romance is realllllllly misleading. I mean, there is a romance, and a Romance, I guess, but.
It read partly as allegory, but as soon as I decided what various characters were, it would totally fall apart. I never really felt like I understood fully what was going on. Some things I never figured out at all. This was a big one.
I seem to have such trouble finding nice (as in, not horribly done) versions of old books like this. Maybe I should just decide that just because there are cheap editions of books like this, doesn’t mean I should buy those ones. This edition wasn’t horrible, but I do think it detracted from my personal potential enjoyment of the story.
Lots of people love this book, but I wasn’t one of them. Maybe from now on I’ll stick to MacDonald’s works for young readers.
Have you read it, or any of MacDonald’s work? What did you think?
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