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A Love Observed (North Wind Books) Paperback – March 7, 2000

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In this definitive biography of Joy Davidman, we read the real love story that the major motion picture, Shadowlands, could not tell. Lyle Dorsett reveals Davidman's profound influence on C.S. Lewis's life and writings.Helen Joy Davidman (1915-1960) was an American poet and writer, a radical communist, and an atheist until her conversion to Christianity in the late 1940s. Her first husband was the writer William Lindsay Gresham. Her second marriage was to the writer and Oxford don, C. S. Lewis.

Joy separated from her first husband and moved to England in 1954 with her two sons, David and Douglas Gresham. Lewis at first regarded her as an agreeable intellectual companion and personal friend, and it was at least overtly on this level that he agreed to enter into a civil marriage contract with her so that she could continue to live in the UK. It then became clear that she had terminal bone cancer, and the relationship developed to the point that they sought a Christian marriage in 1956. She recovered briefly, but eventually succumbed to cancer. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed in response to her death.

Who was the outspoken, dynamic woman named Joy who became C. S. Lewis's wife? The popular movie Shadowlands tells part of the story, but the woman who came from New York with her two children was still an enigma, until Lewis expert and archivist Lyle Dorsett undertook to look into the life and character of this unusual woman. And God Came In tells a more complete story, not only about the brief marriage between the erudite and accomplished Lewis and Joy Davidman, but also of the famously vivid and assertive woman herself.


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Product Details

  • Series: North Wind Books
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Shaw Books; 1st edition (March 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087788479X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877884798
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,080,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Cipriano on May 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
The first sentence in the author's preface says it all... "There was absolutely nothing ordinary about Joy Davidman Lewis." This book is a testament to the truth of that statement, and is unique in its ability to show us so much about Joy Davidman prior to (or besides) her relationship with C.S. Lewis. In fact, it is only towards the mid-section of the book that she even meets Lewis for the first time in the dining room of the Eastgate Hotel, across from Magdalen College in Oxford. Dorsett does an unparalleled ORIGINAL job of documenting Joy's early family life in New York. (95% of the biography is based upon hitherto untapped primary sources). Growing up in a family where religion was at once respected and deplored, we see her unfold as a reluctant Jewess, an atheist, a militant communist, Christian convert, gifted writer/poet and screenwriter, mother and divorcee. She was a many-splendored critical thinker, and Lewis's brother Warnie tells us that "she liked walking, and she liked beer."
In her search for critical truth, Joy was greatly affected by the writings of Lewis (in particular, his Great Divorce, Miracles, and Screwtape Letters) and in the early spring of 1946 she experienced a profound conversion to Christianity. In the midst of a tumultuous and intolerable marriage, she and her two sons sailed for Liverpool from New York in August of 1952. In early September, Joy met Lewis. Anyone who has seen the Hollywood movie "Shadowlands" starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger will remember the portrayal of this initial meeting, and the relationship that followed. It must be said that the movie, though excellent, is grossly inaccurate of their actual story in many ways. For the clearest picture of one of the most heart-rending love stories of our modern age, you can do no better than to sit down with this book by Dorsett. It is an extraordinary account of two lives that were anything but ordinary.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
I recently rented the movie, Shadowlands, which is based on the life story of C.S. (Jack Lewis) and his relationship with Joy Davidson. That movie is what whetted my appetite for this book. I wanted to know more and this book certainly opened up more information about the two of them and their unique relationship. I cried at the movie and I cried reading this book. I intend to read other books about C.S. Lewis. He was a man who never expected to find (or have time for) a wife, but when Joy Davidson came along--all that changed. I'm so glad this author delved more into the lives of these special people. As a woman, I wanted to feel the bonding that went on with *Jack*, and I did. I thank the author for writing this. I would recommend this book to any CS Lewis fan. The next book I plan to read is "Letters to an American Lady."
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Erik Olson VINE VOICE on June 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
We have a plethora of information about C. S. Lewis: letters, books, biographies, etc. However, not much has been written about his wife, Joy Davidman. What led her, an intellectual communist atheist of Jewish heritage, to Christ? How did a divorced American with two children catch the eye of Lewis, a late-middle age British confirmed bachelor? These questions and many others are answered in "A Love Observed." For those of you who've seen "Shadowlands", the cinematic tale of their courtship and marriage, Mr. Dorsett's book provides the back-story behind the film (and takes certain parts of it to task). We are finally given a definitive look at the woman who challenged Lewis' mind and won his heart.
Joy Davidman was an exceptional person. She overcame various physical, racial, and gender barriers to become a noted published author in her own right. But the greatest leap she made was becoming a Christian. Joy intellectually struggled against God for years, but at the age of thirty-one her resistance crumbled, and in her words He "came in, and I changed (pg. 60)." After that, there was no turning back. Eventually she pursued and caught the eye of C. S. Lewis, and the rest, as they say, is history. Of course, there were difficulties. Her brash American mannerisms and straightforward personality were difficult for Lewis' friends to accept at first, and there was a bit of scandal surrounding his marriage to a divorcee. But by all appearances they loved each other, and there's no evidence that Lewis regretted marrying her.
"A Love Observed" is a fascinating glimpse into how a brilliant, strong-willed woman came to Christ and ended up marrying arguably the greatest modern Christian apologist.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matt Fabian on November 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is an important book for those who want to understand C.S. Lewis. When you read a bio of Lewis and learn about this odd woman whom he married under very strange circumstances, you are bound to come away confused. Why would Lewis marry a woman with so much baggage (Former atheist, communist, multiple love affairs, divorced)? What could Lewis, the Oxford Don and intellectual giant, have seen in her?

Essentially, Joy was brilliant too. Dorsett makes it clear that Joy was a remarkable woman in many ways. She was an accomplished poet and writer. In many ways, she was superior to Lewis. Not only was she an intellectual on paar with Lewis, but she was a good cook, a great gardener, and wise with money (Lewis had no concept of finances).

Lewis aside, Joy Davidman led an interesting life in her own right. Well worth your time to read.
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