Tag Archives: Christian fiction

Christmas Carol

Review: A Christmas Carol

Rating: ★★★★★

Full Title: A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Dickens divided the original story into “staves” (i.e. stanzas), with the title likewise being an analogy to verse or song.

Who: Charles Dickens, the most famous English novelist of the 19th century.

Overview: A Christmas Carol is Dickens’ compelling and imaginative story of the life of a miser reformed by a tour through time in which he is visited by Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. In all three tenses, Ebenezer Scrooge sees the truth that he had been missing about his own life, the life of his employee, and the effects of his miserable—pun intended—lifestyle on others.

Meat: This story, which many learned growing up from various adaptations such as those of Disney, is much more than a children’s tale. Like the story that follows it, it has elements of horror and fantasy woven into a simple story. And Scrooge is reformed by the vision of the results of his selfishness; in that sense, the story parallels a Christian conversion, and this is clearer in the original book.

Quotes:

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”

“Bah,” said Scrooge, “Humbug.”

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”

You can read A Christmas Carol for free on Kindle, Project Gutenberg, or listen on LibriVox.

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Review: Perelandra (No Spoilers)

Rating: ★★★★★

Overview: Dr. Ransom makes his second journey “through deep heaven” in this novel, and becomes embroiled in a conflict that could decide the fate of the entire planet of Perelandra.

Lewis’ second installment of his Space Trilogy has much more theological meat in it, and for that reason, is the clear favorite of most theologically inclined readers. Perelandra will make the first book seem simplistic in comparison.

Meat: Out of the Silent Planet imagines a race that has never known sin; Perelandra deals with the intrusion of temptation on such a race. The result is a wealth of insight on both the Fall of Man as a doctrine and resisting temptation as a practice. Unlike the other two books in the series, in Perelandra Ransom’s inner dialogue provides a voicebox for extended theological discussion.

Bones: In my opinion, this might be C. S. Lewis best theology, but it’s wrapped up in a science fiction package. Some of Ransom’s dialogues would fit just as well on the “Christian Living” or “Philosophy” shelf at Barnes and Noble, and that is both the strength and the great criticism of this book, in particular, within the Space Trilogy.

Quotes: “Whatever you do, he will make good of it. But not the good he had prepared for you if you had obeyed him.” (ch. 9)

“Maleldil can make good use of all that happens but the loss is real.” (ch. 12)

“The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths–but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.” (ch. 14)

“I think he made one law of that kind in order that there might be obedience. In all these other matters what you call obeying him is but doing what seems good in your own eyes also. Is love content with that?” (ch. 16)

“Why did no miracle come? Or rather, why no miracle on the right side? For the presence of the Enemy was in itself a kind of Miracle. Had Hell a prerogative to work wonders? Why did Heaven work none? Not for the first he found himself questioning Divine Justice. He could not understand why Maleldil should remain absent when the Enemy was there in person. But while he was thinking this, as suddenly and sharply as if the solid darkness about him had spoken with articulate voice, he knew that Maleldil was not absent. …

‘It’s all very well … a presence of that sort! But the Enemy is really here, really saying and doing things. Where is Maleldil’s representative?’ The answer which came back to him, quick as a fencer’s or tennis player’s riposte, out of the silence and the darkness, almost took his breath away. It seemed blasphemous. ‘Anyway, what can I do?’ babbled the voluble self. ‘I’ve done all I can. I’ve talked till I’m sick of it. It’s no good, I tell you.’ He tried to persuade himself that he, Ransom, could not possibly be Maleldil’s representative as the Un-man was the representative of Hell. The suggestion was, he argued, itself diabolical – a temptation to fatuous pride, to megalomania. He was horrified when the darkness simply flung back this argument in his face, almost impatiently….” (ch. 18)

Review: Heather and Snow (The Peasant Girl’s Dream) (No Spoilers)

Rating: ★★★

Who: George MacDonald, 19th-century Scottish preacher, poet, and novelist. He had a profound influence on C. S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and many others.

Where: Rural 19th-century Scotland.

Overview: Heather and Snow, which Michael Phillips republished as The Peasant Girl’s Dream, is one of George MacDonald’s Scottish novels. The novel opens on Francis and Kirsty running a race on a highland hillside. Both are ambitious, even stubborn. Kirsty and her family are tenant farmers on the land of Francis’ family. But as they grow, tension comes between them. Kirsty and her feeble-minded brother Steenie grow in tenderness and maturity in the light of Christ, while Francis becomes proud. The story turns on Francis’ pride, and Kirsty’s refusal to let him waste his life.

Meat: MacDonald, in the characters of both Steenie and Francis, deals with various forms of mental illness and even retardation. As in almost all of his novels, in the end, the love of our neighbor is the only door out of the dungeon of self. MacDonald has a refreshing way of showing the impact of friendship on spiritual life.

Bones: The original edition fully justifies Michael Phillips’ mission of updating the language of MacDonald’s books; speaking as a linguist, armed with a dictionary, the Scottish dialect here is challenging. I wouldn’t recommend MacDonald’s Scottish novels in the original editions unless you just love language. You can pick up the updated edition, The Peasant Girl’s Dream, very cheaply.

Quotes: “The story of God’s universe lies in the growth of the individual soul.” (p. 21)

“The Lord’s gowk’s better nor the warl’s prophet.” (Or, “The Lord’s fool is better than the world’s prophet.”) (p. 125)

“One of the hardest demands on the obedience of faith is—to do nothing; it is often so much easier to do foolishly!” (p. 148)

“It seems to me there’s no shame in being frightened, so long as you don’t serve and obey the fright, but trust in him that sees, and do what you have to do.” (updated, p. 186)