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Phantastes, a Faerie Romance for Men and Women (English Edition) Format Kindle
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At first it was hard to get into because for a while the story seems to wander aimlessly. MacDonald describes Fairy Land beautifully, but I just didn't see any plot to connect the seemingly random events. Also, it was sometimes a chore to get through the long sections of poetry (as I'm not a big fan of poetry).
BUT at about halfway through the book, a story started to take shape, or rather, the "story" was hinted at all along, and the central struggles finally came to the surface, like love vs. possessiveness, and sacrifice. It's really a connect-the-dots kind of book, but not in the sense of a detective story: in a deeper sense of seeing the picture that MacDonald paints of the human heart, a picture that at first looks like random splotches, but then, as if we were watching the picture being painted, becomes more and more recognizable as the separate shapes are connected and finally find their meaning as a whole. MacDonald has painted not only a fairy story, but he has painted us, our own heart, in all its joy and pain.
Once I saw this, it really changed my attitude toward the book. I read the second half in one sitting! I'll definitely read it again sometime because I'm sure I missed a lot of the layers and hidden meanings.
My advice: If you're bored in the first half, just keep reading! It gets better.
About the book: The first half is like a beautiful, but fragmented, dream. It's difficult to see how the fragments relate to each other, or what purposes they serve. Many chapters could easily work as stand-alone short stories. In the second half, everything starts to come together. It's like piecing together a puzzle to see what picture forms at the end.
The story often becomes philosophical, but in a way that encourages individual thinking rather than promoting only the narrator's viewpoint.
Readers of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (or any other Inklings, for that matter) will probably find "Phantastes" worthwhile.
This is not a plot-driven book. The story is simple enough. A man wanders into the mystical other world and encounters strange goings on. The plot springs from this like a dream, shifting unexpectedly and often, flowing like a river shifting and twisting in its banks. An act as simple as opening a door might bring a sudden shift in the narrative, a jump in time and place. If this lack of structure sounds unappealing, then this book is probably not for you. The story recounts the journey of Anodos through the spiritual realms of Faerie, and his triumphs and failures therein. As a reader who enjoys such fantastical journeys, I found this book to be a pleasant read.
The ending of the book was not as satisfying as I had hoped it would be, especially after the long winding road to reach it. Also, the book includes a lot of poems, verse and songs, which I find bogs down the flow of the narrative. The songs in particular, which can be quite lengthy at times, I did not like. Because they lack music, the lyrics are somewhat dead on the page. Some of these songs seemed to go on and on for pages. Tolkien showed this same irritating trait later in his works, so if you find the songs in the Lord of the Rings unappealing, then you probably won't like these.
C.S. Lewis claimed that Phantastes was the bok that baptized his imagination, and it is easy to see why. This is certainly a powerful book, and for anyone interested in the breadth of Fantasy literature (beyond Tolkien and Tolkien-deriatives), I would recommend reading this. Don't expect to find high adrenaline excitement on every page. But do expect to encounter a haunting vision of Faerie that will stick with you for a while.
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