Saturday, September 22, 2012

Another Birthday and Two Book Reviews

After the sweet humiliation of being hacked by my younger sister (thank-you, Junior B!) I have recovered enough to think about giving you all a hobbit's birthday. As you know, the birthday hobbit gives presents to all his guests, and I shall happily provide a group present of an extra post this week. ;)

Before We Begin
Before we return to our normal book review, it is my pleasure to wish Mr. Bilbo Baggins (the hobbit) a very happy birthday. I enjoy knowing that his is the day before mine. :) Check out my review of The Hobbit, in which Bilbo is mainly featured, here.

In celebration of his birthday, I have posted the first verses of his poem The Road Goes Ever On, and a brand-new trailer for Peter Jackson's upcoming movie adaptation of The Hobbit.

The Road Goes Ever On

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

And now, back to our regular scheduled programming. :)

The Review

Since My Lady Bibliophile launched earlier this year, we've reviewed many books--fiction and non-fiction, Christian and secular. Most were ones I have read and recommend. A few were ones that I found lacking. Some of them are casual favorites I enjoy upon occasion, while others are very close to my heart.

Today, in celebration of my birthday weekend, I would like to review a couple of books that are very dear favorites of mine. They have to be reviewed together because they are companion volumes, and more than that, they belong to each other. They embody the very spirit of the Scots, and the very heart of God's love: in the form of a simple fisherman, young Malcolm MacPhail.

I introduce to you The Fisherman's Lady and The Marquis' Secret, by George MacDonald.

Griselda Campbell had been a little-known and even lesser-understood enigma who had lived the past twenty years of her lonely life as a virtual recluse with a distant relative. Her passing in the very prime of life was greeted by those few who knew her not so much with mourning as with curiosity. Griselda's life was shrouded in mystery. But hers was not the only past kept carefully shielded from would-be intruders. As she had long ago withdrawn into the seclusion of her inner thoughts, so had several others. And now it seemed the secret which bound them all together would go quietly to the grave with poor Griselda. For she alone had held the missing piece to the puzzle without which none of the others would ever know the full scope of the truth...

The Fisherman's Lady
 Malcolm MacPhail is a strong and simple fisherman, supporting his blind grandfather in the coastal town of Port Strathy. A lover of God and nature, his is a kind and simple existence, full of helping those weaker, and seeking to know more about his Maker. When the laird of Port Strathy comes to visit his estate with his beautiful daughter, a new realm opens to Malcolm--the realm of nobility and love. After a misunderstanding between the laird and Malcolm's piping grandfather, he and Malcolm  come to  an understanding of each other, and the laird hires Malcolm as the part-time skipper of his new little yacht. Somehow, with the coming of the laird, his life becomes more complicated, and he is soon navigating the tricky waters of station and birth. When his supposed grandfather confesses that Malcolm is no relation to him at all, Malcolm is thrown back upon the realization that he has no idea who he is. He even teasingly suggests to his grandfather that he may be of the race of the terrible Campbells, that murdered Duncan's relatives in the massacre at Glencoe. As the story unfolds, Malcolm persists with Christian character as he finds out who Duncan is, who he is, and how this will affect his lady-love Florimel. With added mystery from the mysterious midwife Bobby Catanatch and threatened shame to Malcolm at the hands of Lizza Findlay; a mad and disfigured man who roams the Port Strathy beach, and a horrible woman who claims to be Malcolm's mother, his past may be more disgraceful that he had ever feared.

The Marquis' Secret
Upon the laird's death, Malcolm vows to protect the Lady Florimel any way he can.  But that's no easy thing to do. She goes to town with some rich cousins, and though she accepts him as her groom, she has a much cooler attitude towards him than she had when her father was alive. Malcolm watches her blunder over the love of a poor painter in favor of a scamp of a laird, and eventually determines to take matters into his own hands. With the help of his fellow fisherman and a friend of Florimel's he persuades her to spend some time away from her cousins at a friend's little estate by the sea. There he and the Lady Clementina discuss many spiritual matters while Florimel sits by and listens. But she is unaffected, and when they all return to town, Malcolm realizes that more must be done. Added to this is the fear that he may never see the blind piper again, for when the old man finds out who Malcolm's family is, he disappears leaving no trace behind him. When the midwife Bobby Catanatch tries to poison him, and Florimel sinks deeper into the clutches of the young laird, Malcolm implements a bold scheme that, if successful, will rescue her and enable him to take up his destined position. But Florimel remains unmoved, and if he cannot persuade her, he may lose a woman very dear to his heart.

My Thoughts
Full of gentle drama and classic humor, both books are excellently written by the Scottish preacher George MacDonald. Read it for the tale itself. The moral lessons will sink in along with the gentle wash of Port Strathy waves and Malcolm's Scottish brogue. The first book contains dozens of laugh-out-loud moments, many of which are occasioned by Duncan's stubborn Scottish logic. With tender poignancy, The Fisherman's Lady and The Marquis' Secret  drift through quiet mystery and gentle romance that you will not want to miss.
Those who love Spencer's Fairy Queene (which I have not read) will enjoy MacDonald's tribute to his work in The Fisherman's Lady with the name of Malcolm's love interest, Florimel.
I do use white-out here and there.
I read these books about every year and a half, they are such favorites of mine. This week I am enjoying them to the gentle lap of waves on the shore, and the bright scent of pine trees while our family takes a vacation together. I count Malcolm as an old friend of mine, and delight to spend a week of comradeship enjoying his adventures. George MacDonald writes  with a combination of the gentle sentiment of Gene Stratton-Porter, and the all-out drama of Charles Dickens. His stirring adventures twine themselves around your heartstrings and deepen your faith in a loving Creator. Two wonderful books to read when curled up with a cup of tea or cocoa, in the darkness of an Autumn evening.

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Dear Lady B,
    *Whew* After yesterday I must compose myself long enough to make a comment. :D
    Wonderful review! Remember when you did a review of The Marquis' Secret a few years ago for school?
    Love, Sister

  2. What a coincidence, Lady B! I am just about to begin George MacDonald's "The Baronet's Song", and then I plan to do its companion, "The Shepherd's Castle". I know you like the first; have you read the second?

    I shall have to be on the look-out for "The fisherman's Lady" and "The Marguis' Secret"; they sound delightful!


    1. You will love "The Baronet's Song" Kyla! That was the first one we ever read of MacDonald's, and it was such a sweet story. I have also read "The Shepherd's Castle", which was much more intense (prepare yourself...), and also had a loveable Christian hero. (Wish I could say more, but I don't want to give anything away!) I think you'll really enjoy the Scottish setting. It's a favorite country of mine. ;)

      I think you would really enjoy the two I mentioned today, as they also have some of my favorite elements of the Sir Gibbie series, along with their own delightful twists. :) I can't wait to see what you think of MacDonald's works. Enjoy!


  3. Yay! George MacDonald! I read both these books a number of times in my teen years and enjoyed them very much, especially the second.

    Are you aware that these versions, published by Bethany House, have been edited? I haven't read any MacDonald for a few years (apart from Lilith which I loved) and that's because all the MacDonald fans I met were immediately shocked and distressed that I'd only read the edited versions! Michael Phillips is the culprit ;).

    So I can't really tell you what differences there are between the edited and unedited books. But thanks to Mrs Sonnemann, I now have a copy of Sir Gibbie (edited: The Baronet's Song) and Mary Marston (edited: A Daughter's Devotion). The unedited version of The Fisherman's Daughter is called, I believe, Malcolm, while the unedited version of The Marquis' Secret is called The Marquis of Lossie. I was thrilled to get an old hardback of the latter from a closing-down bookshop in Melbourne a few weeks ago! Can't wait to revisit the old story in it's original form, but am hoping to get Malcolm first.

  4. I am sooooooooo excited about 'The Hobbit' movies too, Schuyler, and this new trailer was so delightful to watch :).

    Oh, and thank you for the review of those two books... they certainly sound really interesting. I should like to read them one day.

    Blessings in Christ,


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