What Sets George MacDonald Apart from Other Fiction Writers

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“Tell me honestly, do you really believe one word of all that?”

The skeptic’s question to the curate was a staggering blow to someone whose occupation presupposes faith in God—rather like assuming a child brought up in a Christian home will automatically become a child of God.

The story of Thomas Wingfold, Curate (republished in the 1980s as The Curate’s Awakening) awakened in me a desire to not just know facts, but to know and believe the Truth.

George MacDonald’s writing has had a soul-searching effect on me, stirring up doubt at times, yet leading to a healthy questioning of long-held traditions, with the purpose of being sure of what I believe. The theme of The Curate’s Awakening is the realization that “God in his compassion seeks our deliverance, healing, and rebirth.” The main character, Thomas Wingfold, shows how “the response of the open heart when confronted with truth—however unpleasant . . . is a response of humility, which leads to growth and eventual oneness with Christ.”

A secondary character, Helen, mirrors the dull spiritual state of the curate, having “supposed she could think because the thoughts of other people had passed through her quite regularly, leaving many a phantom conclusion behind. But this had been their thinking, not hers.” Like children raised in a Christian home, Christianity has been “spoon-fed” to them for so many years, how can they distinguish their own faith from that of their teachers or parents?

The ability to challenge his readers to the very core of their belief system is what sets MacDonald apart from other writers of fiction.

Far from “fluff,” his stories are deep and thought provoking, begging for a response.

If you’re like me, you won’t be able to read more than two or three pages before instinctively reaching for a pencil or highlighter to mark jewels you want to ruminate on later.

And I promise you will be inexplicably drawn toward the Heavenly Father, desiring to know Him more fully, which was the author’s intent all along.

The Glaston Trilogy

The story of Curate Thomas Wingfold was originally written in the 1800s by George MacDonald. The trilogy was edited by Michael Phillips and republished in condensed form by Bethany House in the 1980s under new titles (including the three-in-one volume, The Curate of Glaston). Michael Phillips is working on newly edited and expanded editions as part of The Cullen Collection, releasing 2018-2019.

1. Thomas Wingfold, Curate (published in 1876)
(republished as The Curate’s Awakening in 1985)
Thomas Wingfold, Curate: The Cullen Collection, Volume 19

2. Paul Faber, Surgeon (published in 1879)
(republished as The Lady’s Confession in 1986)
Paul Faber, Surgeon: The Cullen Collection, Volume 21

3. There and Back (published in 1891)
(republished as The Baron’s Apprenticeship in 1986)
There and Back: The Cullen Collection, Volume 32

Read more about George MacDonald:


The ability to challenge his readers to the very core of their belief system is what sets MacDonald apart from other writers of fiction. Far from “fluff,” his stories are deep and thought provoking, begging for a response. The story of Thomas Wingfold, Curate (republished in the 1980s as The Curate’s Awakening) awakened in me a desire to not just know facts, but to know and believe the Truth.(originally published in 2015; edited from the archives)

Photography: JenniMarie Photography

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3 Comments

  1. George MacDonald is almost a classic of Scottish literature. I read his books when I was a scholar. There are the stories about humanity and god with some elements of fiction. I wrote a lot of essays about his works. I also recommend reading them.

  2. Ooohhh! Love George Macdonald! My grandmother got me hooked on him years ago. You cannot go wrong with his books! Thanks for sharing!
    In Christ,
    Bethany