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At the Back of the North Wind

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  4,813 Ratings  ·  296 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 346 pages
Published October 16th 2001 by Everyman's Library (first published 1871)
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The Best Fairytales and Retellings
313th out of 1,941 books — 7,790 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dec 19, 2011 Chris rated it it was amazing
3rd time reading this through. One of my favorite stories of all time, but honestly, I started to feel that I absorbed as much as I could for this time in my life. The thought occurred to me that I might read this once more before I die, and that’s it. We’ll see what the years bring.

It is a beautiful story. Profound. Sometimes playful and outlandish in a Lewis Carroll sort of way. Honestly, some parts feel like just another Victorian nickel-novel. But MacDonald always manages to take it beyond i
David Gregg
At the start, for the first half of it, I struggled to push my way through "At the Back of the North Wind." I thought it tedious and drawn out. But by the time I had waded into the middle, I found I was swimming.

I just finished this book, and I have to tell you, I have no way of using my tongue to convey how I feel and what this book has done in me. I sit without words, but without the ability to contain the rush of thought and emotion that crowd me on all sides. I look about and the only thing
Jan 10, 2011 Mike rated it it was amazing
I am so delighted to have found this book amongst the treasures of project Guteberg. Thank goodness for public domain books and ebook readers! With the low price of admission, I find myself reading more and more books that I might not have otherwise taken the time to look up, or might not have remembered when I got to a library.

Once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down. However, as opposed to most books that pull you through solely with plot, I found myself going back and re-readin
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Feb 26, 2016 Ginny rated it really liked it
I last read this book when I was 9 or 10 years old. I remembered the portrayal of the North Wind as a beautiful, comforting woman, but was not able at that age to appreciate her mystical, spiritual significance. She now seems to me to be the embodiment of the spirit of love. I don't think she is Death, but that she incorporates some of the lovelier, reassuring aspects of death. I appreciate Diamond's gradual understanding of her explanation that she must sometimes do things that seem evil but th ...more
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
Jan 24, 2010 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are the sort of person who only reads the first few sentences of a review, you'd better just look back at my rating to determine my opinion of this book, because I'm going to start out by saying critical things. However, the books I like best, like my favorite people, tend to be those which are beautiful in spite of their flaws.

I never know quite what to say about this story, and so usually I do not talk about it. It is considered a children's book, for such, I believe, the author intende
Janith Pathirage
I respect the book a great deal for being such a classic, but to me it was bit boring (Is it just me or the North Wind ?). Don't think even as a kid I enjoyed this one that much. Yes, I was yawning all the time. And I was a big fan of Hal and Roger Hunt back then. Anyway, I personally believe the story is too lengthy for a children's book, specially for such a theme. If it had only 200 pages, this would have looked bit more interesting. And I hated North Wind every time she appeared. A very anno ...more
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D.M. Dutcher
Jun 24, 2011 D.M. Dutcher rated it it was amazing
It's a deep series of connected fairy tales that all share a central theme: that suffering is a part of life that God uses. Diamond is a sweet, innocent child who one night befriends the North Wind. He is blown by her many nights to intersect in the lives of a poor young girl abused by her grandmother, a wealthy philanthropist, and others. One day he travels to "the back of the north wind," a place full and rich, where everyone is "waiting for something better." He returns, and is changed, till ...more
James Ryan
Jun 20, 2012 James Ryan rated it it was amazing
I recently had an intense, life-changing revelation. I nearly went insane and spent over 2 weeks in the hospital, diagnosed with hypermania. I found At The Back Of The North Wind in the hospital (I think left for a purpose), and it described my situation perfectly. I did not die/visit the back of the North Wind, but the North Wind was synonymous, for me, with the voice of God that resonated in my head, providing infinite wisdom. It turned me from a pond into a river, and all my fears and limits ...more
Dec 06, 2015 Wanda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Laura
6 DEC 2015 - recommendation through Laura. Many Thanks!

Free download:
Megan Fritts
Feb 20, 2011 Megan Fritts rated it it was amazing
MacDonald wrote this story for his children, and it was also the favorite book of Mark Twain's children. However, although this is a children's book, there is so much that adults can get from it. I found myself weeping in several spots, either from the depth of truth being presented, or from the simple childlikeness of little Diamond. Needless to say, when I have children, this will be a favorite in our house.
Josa Young
Oct 08, 2009 Josa Young rated it it was amazing
Brilliant book. Read it as a child, loved it without understanding. Read it to my children and realised it is about death, and in particular children dying. Heartbreaking but also hopeful.
Oct 08, 2015 Jo rated it really liked it
Readers already comfortable with The Chronicles of Narnia will likely enjoy this book, written by the man who inspired C.S. Lewis. The modern uninitiated reader, however, will likely not enjoy this fanciful tale about a young boy in Victorian London who befriends the lady North Wind and sees everything differently afterward.

For my part, I relished the telling of this story just as much as the chance to analyze where and how MacDonald meant to reflect the "true myth" (and yes, I do realize that's
Apr 11, 2016 Jennifer rated it liked it
Great book for all ages
Erica Miles
Aug 13, 2016 Erica Miles rated it it was amazing
Another exquisite tapestry of a fairy tale by the renowned 19th century Scottish minister and theologian, George MacDonald, who, according to his biography, lost several of his own children to early death, due to the appalling childhood mortality which was just a fact of existence during MacDonald's lifetime. This highly intelligent and educated author's child-like, unquestioning faith in a traditional Christian God, despite his own many losses and suffering, resulted in a faith in a God, who, t ...more
Aaron Cassidy
Jan 25, 2015 Aaron Cassidy rated it it was amazing
At the Back of the North Wind is a rare, wonderful gem of a book. Written by George MacDonald, it is about a boy named Diamond who makes the acquaintance of an extraordinary supernatural being named North Wind, a lady who is evidently exactly what her name suggests. Full of wonder and mystery, she leads Diamond on a number of adventures. The most notable of these leads Diamond to a land at her back, hence the title. It is in venturing here that Diamond is transformed. He becomes very wise, matur ...more
I sought out more of George MacDonald's fiction (a long while) after reading his exceedingly wonderful Phantastes. At the Back of the North Wind was filed in the library's juvenile fiction section, which should have tipped me off to what was to come. The book is 400 pages of light reading - it's meant to be read to children - and in some ways not a lot happens. The first section sets the stage for the rest of the book: Diamond is swept off on midnight rides by the beautiful, magical North Wind. ...more
May 28, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review is specifically for the Young Reader's Christian Library abridged and revised version published by Barbour in 1991, illustrated by Ken Save.

First of all, let's make something clear for all you cotton headed ninny muggins out there. This is a child-friendly edition that has been abridged and updated with contemporary language for young readers. The original "At The Back Of The North Wind" was written for kids and adults...IN THE 19th CENTURY!! That's the 1800's...for all you cotton he
Jan 25, 2013 Miro rated it it was amazing
Shelves: phantasies

George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking a tale of a pensive, seemingly simple-minded but pure boy named Diamond. His dearest friends include the cold, somewhat harsh and fleeting, but ever benevolent North Wind, an old horse after which his father gave Diamond his name, and an old and experienced wealthy gentleman fully aware of the boy's otherworldly qualities. As such, Diamond is hardly accepted by his peers as their equal,
Apr 04, 2013 Gale rated it really liked it

This children's classic would definitely be rejected by most modern kids--in fact, I had to force myself through the first third of the book, until the plot became more believable. Page after page of nonsense poetry and absurd adult-child conversations put me off. The Human story itself is pretty good: a frail, sickly, angelic boy of 7, son of a poor coachman in 19th century London, has the unique ability to charm those he meets, to touch the lives of children and adults alike, chang
Jesse Broussard
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Sep 29, 2014 Trish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
George MacDonald is one of the few writers who can 'preach' truth in a fairy story without getting 'preachy'. I really can't describe this book - it takes you beyond description. Recommended for the Logos Library for 5th grade to adult.
Mar 02, 2016 Travis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
An odd little fantasy novel that is equal parts victorian fairy tale and Charlie Dickens social commentary.

A little boy named Diamond becomes friends with the Lady of the North Wind and ends up traveling across this world and at least one beyond this world and uses what he learns to deal with some things in the real world and help his family and other people around him.

It is about 50 pages longer than it needs to be and meanders a bit, but it's running theme of 'bad things happen and you can't a
May 04, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jacob, ellie, mom
Listened to the audio about a year ago. The audio was wonderfully done and we will listen to this one over and over....(mom cried)..krb 5/4/16
Bridget West
Jun 23, 2010 Bridget West rated it really liked it
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Feb 12, 2011 Ann rated it it was amazing
All metaphysic, theology, philosophy is as words signifying nothing compared to MacDonald's rendering of this tale. Part fairy story, part dream, poetry, apprehended here is a meaning of life and love such as you will not find in slmost any other book. The style is off-putting to some: tales within tales, a song here, a nursery rhyme there. But it is the story of Diamond, an angel child.who finds sanctification at the back of the north wind. Do you have anxiety justifying the trouble and triumph ...more
Dec 12, 2015 Elizabeth rated it liked it
At the Back of the North Wind is a hard book to judge. George MacDonald certainly wrote it well, and Diamond is about as compelling a character as a poor "Little Lord Fauntleroy"-type could be. North Wind is interesting, particularly since she is very honest about the effects of her "work." I don't think this is a story I will forget.

Still … it's hard to claim that North Wind has much worth in today's society, and I don't think I'd recommend it to other readers, even younger ones. Few believe in
Aug 05, 2015 Agnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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Was anyone else "blown away" by this book? 4 23 Aug 13, 2013 02:06PM  
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George MacDonald was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister.

Known particularly for his poignant fairy tales and fantasy novels, George MacDonald inspired many authors, such as G.K. Chesterton, W. H. Auden, J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Madeleine L'Engle. Lewis that wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his "master": "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I
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“Only he knew that to be left alone is not always to be forsaken.” 60 likes
“For that great Love speaks in the most wretched and dirty hearts; only the tone of its voice depends on the echoes of the place in which it sounds.” 18 likes
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