One of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential religious writer of his day, Lewis was also an Oxford don and a scholar of medieval literature who loved to debate philosophy at his local pub. Yet one of the most intriguing aspects of Clive Staples Lewis remains unanswered. How did a bachelor professor, nearly 50, and living in a wholly adult world, turn to the writing of stories for children, stories that would become among the most popular and beloved ever written?
Alan Jacobs masterfully tells the story of C.S. Lewis. From his childhood days in Ireland to his horrific experiences in the trenches of the First World War, to his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkein (and other members of the "Inklings") and his remarkable late-life marriage to Joy Davidman, Jacobs traces the events and people that shaped Lewis's philosophy, theology, and fiction. The story of a profound mind and extraordinary imagination, The Narnian is a remarkable tale of a man who knew great loss and great delight, but who knew above all that the world holds far more richness and meaning than the average eye can see.
©2005 Alan Jacobs; (P)2005 HarperCollins Publishers
"Amidst a sea of entry-level Lewis portraits being published this fall, this more substantive book is for hard-core Lewis lovers eager to soak up historical minutiae and savor salient Lewis quotes for years to come."(Publishers Weekly)
Narrative makes the world go round.
While not a simplistic bio of Lewis, it's not overly academic either. Neither is it (thankfully) an interpretation key for Chronicles of Narnia. Although Jacobs' thesis is that Lewis expressed his imaginative world best (consciously or unconsciously) through Narnia, he covers all Lewis' work. Jacobs creates a skilful and entertaining biography, weaving together smoothly discussion of Lewis' fiction and nonfiction with bio details and some interpretation of those life experiences.
Occasionally, however, the book sounds like C.S. Lewis for Dummies--Jacobs will cite a passage of Lewis (quite well expressed by itself) then explain it in his own words. Jacobs assumes the listener is unfamiliar with early/mid century British culture and details the school system etc. that would be familiar to even occasional readers of Brit lit. There are also short digressions about Chesterton, Housemen and others who influenced Lewis--not enough to bore someone familiar with them, but enough to situate a reader who isn't. It's very much a conversion story and an exposition of Lewis' attacks on moral relativism, instumentalism and conformity, but the bio ends with the older, wiser Lewis transcending the words and doctrines of the middle-aged apologist with images.
Overall an enjoyable listen, neither heavy nor lightweight, a bio skilfully and lovingly written and narrated by Jacobs so as to surprise with joy even a tepid fan of CS Lewis like me.
"The Narnian" gives a glimpse into why C.S. Lewis, Oxford scholar and Christian apologist, wrote fairy tales. It is a fairly complete biography, starting in childhood and ending in Lewis's death in 1963. It also looks into the effects of World War I, the Inklings and more.
At the start, Alan Jacobs deviates a bit too much from biography toward analysis of the Narnia books (containing spoilers). However, the analysis stems from Jacobs desire to take clues about Lewis's life from his writings. The exercise is often quite revealing.
Jacobs also touches on how Aslan came to be the hero of Narnia... stating that the Christian allegory -- in at least "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" -- came forth during the writing process and not by C.S. Lewis's conscious design. Lewis was just trying to tell a good story -- a great fairy tale -- that would grab children's attention.
A thoughtful, informative, balanced and well-written bio of Lewis read by the author. Jacobs's pleasant voice makes this an enjoyable audio book. The closing anecdote is brilliantly summative of Lewis and quite moving to anyone who has just listened to the entire book.
In the wake of the new Narnia movie, I decided to learn more about the man behind the childhood books I loved. This biography is often too detailed in its research, and is quite academic, but I gained a greater appreciation for Lewis and by the end of the book I was truly sad when it discussed his passing away. He was a great man, and this book does him justice.
The books provided insight into the life of and books of CS Lewis. Having been absorbed by the books of an amazing man, this one intrigued me in and captured my full attention. It goes from his childhood to his death, providing a background of his books as he wrote them.
C.S Lewis is a theologian and Christian writer. He was good friends with fellow writer and academic J.R.R. Tolkien. Both Lewis and Tolkien were members of the Inklings, a writers group that met regularly during the time Lewis was writing The Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings. The Narnian is the story of C.S Lewis from his childhood in Ireland to his experiences in WWI to his highly interesting association with Tolkien.
The most amazing part of this to me is how the experiences of up-and-comers Lewis and Tolkien in the twentieth century parallels that of the experiences of up-and-coming authors in the twenty-first century and most notably, my favorite author.
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