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The Golden Key by George MacDonald
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The Golden Key (1867)

by George MacDonald

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 18 mentions

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I don't know how I missed this for so many years. I read MacDonald's other children's books years ago. I am grateful that I finally got around to it as part of my children's fantasy reading project.

It is a beautiful and moving story, and Sendak's illustrations are perfect. In the afterward, W.H. Auden says it better than I can: "MacDonald's most extraordinary , and precious, gift is his ability . . . to create an atmosphere of goodness about which there is nothing phony or moralistic. Nothing is rarer in literature."

It is interesting to contrast this with Pilgrim's Progress, another influential religious allegory/fantasy about the journey through life and the afterlife. MacDonald must have read it, or at least known about it. And he clearly rejected it. The Golden Key is filled with a sense of wonder, innocence, and beauty completely missing from Pilgrim's Progress. It is also a much better story. I love the flying fish! ( )
  JanetNoRules | Sep 17, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A slightly confusing mix of fairy tale, moral tale, and story about life and death. I found it interesting enough to keep reading, but too confusing to find meaning or purpose. While it is not important for a good book to contain some underlying statement about life, it is important for a book to tell a good story and I thought this fell a little short.
Probably as much as anything, the illustrations in this edition help explain and conduct the reader through the story. They are well done and add to the presentation of the story.
Would I recommend this book to others? I'm not sure. Between my confusion with the story and the interesting pictures, there is a feeling of 'don't bother' along with the feeling of 'go ahead and read it... it isn't that long'. Your choice.
  stined | Apr 11, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Having previously owned and read other editions of this book, I was mostly interested to read this version for the illustrations.

It's amazing what a difference Sanderson's pictures make in my experience of the story! The Sendak version features illustrations that, while lovely, are far less frequent and unobtrusive-- and the actual book was much smaller, which for some reason makes me think of it as intended for older readers.

In this edition, the actual volume is larger-- and the print matches. Both the scale and type size remind me of an Easy Reader style book, though the story is longer than one would expect from those.

And, of course: the illustrations: far more than mere occasional decorations, they appear at least every other page-turn, with frequent two-page spreads that invite pause and careful consideration. at other points, the pictures intrude upon and interact with the text itself, truly shaping a remarkably realistic-- and fanciful-- vision of the fairy world.

My one recommendation, which is a very picky one, would be to have a complete sentence end before each two-page illustration. Even with dissertation formatting requirements, I know how difficult it is to fit figures on the page and control widows and orphans, etc. However, I always feel rushed when turning the page mid-sentence, and I'm afraid some of the incredible illustrations will receive short shrift from readers for this reason.
  theresearcher | Nov 27, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was so excited to receive this book for review, because I'd been hearing a lot about MacDonald in things I'd been reading and couldn't wait to see what the fuss was about--plus, I've always loved Ruth Sanderson's illustrations. Unfortunately, though I did love the illustrations as expected, I was really disappointed with the story. I felt like there was some great symbolism I should be getting, but wasn't (and I am a well-read English major with 24 years of teaching young children and reading children's literature). I didn't feel a connection to the characters and was only mildly interested in what would happen to them next. I won't be sharing this one with my daughter; there are too many other wonderful books to read. ( )
  mcghol | Oct 17, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Full disclosure: The biggest reason I requested a copy of The Golden Key was Ruth Sanderson's illustrations, which, I'm happy to report, were breathtaking. Scratchboard art blows my mind; being a non-artist, I just can't wrap my brain around how artists like Ruth create such beauty by scratching away at solid black to reveal bit by bit a complete picture. The proportions, the balance, the fine details...beautiful!

As for George MacDonald's fairy tale, which I read in one sitting, I found it easily adaptable to the reader's interpretation and I like stories where I'm given leeway to apply my own meaning. But I can certainly see where this tale could be presented as a Christian fairy tale for those so inclined. I found Ruth's art the perfect complement to the tale, and MacDonald's Fairyland was how I always imagine it: full of creatures both light and dark.

4 stars (5 stars for the illustrations; 3 stars for the fairy tale) ( )
  flying_monkeys | Aug 19, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George MacDonaldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Auden, W. H.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanderson, RuthIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sendak, MauriceIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
van Sandwyk, CharlesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yoe, CraigIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To Mary and the memory of Randall. M.S.
First words
There was a boy who used to sit in the twilight and listen to his great-aunt's stories.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the single tale by MacDonald entitled "The Golden Key." Collections of MacDonald's tales with Golden Key in the title should not be combined with this work.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374425906, Paperback)

The adventurous wanderings of a boy and girl to find the keyhole which fits the rainbow's golden key.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:41 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The adventurous wanderings of a boy and girl to find the keyhole which fits the rainbow's golden key.

» see all 2 descriptions

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