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Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman Hardcover – June 19, 2009

4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Journal of Inklings Studies
“In this delightful and beautifully produced volume, Prof. King introduces, presents and unobtrusively annotates Davidman’s collected letters, which span a period of twenty-four years, from 1936 to her death in 1960. . . . The portrait Davidman’s letters paint is scintillating and many-layered, and displays the entire palette of a mind that Lewis justly described as ‘lithe and quick and muscular as a leopard’. Don King’s clear introduction and apparatus, and his pertinent, learned and unobtrusive annotations, make this a volume equally useful to the scholar and the general reader. It cannot be recommended warmly enough.”

About the Author

Don W. King is professor of English at Montreat College and editor of Christian Scholar’s Review. He is the author of over sixty articles on C. S. Lewis, and his other books include C. S. Lewis, Poet and Hunting the Unicorn: A Critical Biography of Ruth Pitter.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (June 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080286399X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802863997
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,245,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've "lived" with this book for a week, and I still cannot stop staring at the undated jacket photo of young (twenty-something?) Joy Davidman. She's staring soberly into the camera, the flash reflecting in her watery eyes. She's stunningly beautiful and hauntingly present. A store browser might be swayed to buy the book on the merits of the jacket alone. But there's so much more to be revealed by reading the hefty volume of letters written by Joy Davidman, whose reputation might have been lost to history had she not married C. S. "Jack" Lewis, famed author of the Chronicles of Narnia series.

The first letters were written in 1936; at age 21, she already has a master's degree from Columbia and is corresponding about her poetic aspirations with Stephen Vincent Benét. This brings up a notable feature of the collection: it is designed for lay readers as well as literary types. The editor provides footnotes that give basic information on virtually all correspondents. If you don't happen to know the import of Benét in his time --- a Pulitzer Prize winner --- it's laid out for you right at the bottom of the page.

By age 30, she is a prize-winning poet and has published her first novel. She's a member of the Communist Party and an editor for its American magazine New Masses. She has married a fellow writer and Communist, William Lindsay Gresham, and is a mother. Many of the early letters focus on her own writing pursuits and also reveal her as a no-nonsense editorial mentor-critic. For example, she is quoted as saying, "What the words do not contain, you cannot add with punctuation.
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Don W. King, the editor of this volume, is a literary scholar whose work focuses on C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman. Davidman is probably best known today as the divorced mother of two who married Lewis late in both of their lives. (The story of their romance and of Davidman's death from cancer is depicted in Shadowlands, a play and then film in which Anthony Hopkins plays Lewis and Debra Winger plays Davidman.)

"Out of My Bone" is largely a collection of letters written by (and, in a few cases, received by) Davidman, arranged chronologically. King has included in this volume a helpful introduction as well as numerous notes that help to provide a context for many of the letters. While she does mention Lewis several times in these letters, readers who want to see a collection of love letters between Lewis and Davidman will be disappointed: They aren't included in this volume (and aren't likely to be published, even if some still exist). But readers who want to get to know Davidman better will definitely find this collection of letters interesting and valuable. Davidman's personality shines forth in her letters--particularly those with her Douglas Gresham, her ex-husband and the father of her two sons. Readers interested in Davidman's story of her spiritual journey (from secular Jew to atheist and Communist and then to Christian) will also enjoy reading this collection of letters.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who has read the Narnian series in its entirety, or who wants to do so, may be fascinated with spunky feisty Jill Pole who breaks the traditional mold of how a girl ought to behave in Lewis' day. I believe that Jill was, perhaps in part, based on his one true love: Joy Davidman Lewis.

Joy drank beer, and complained when there was not enough of it to her liking. She wrote fierce poetry. She showed courage in the face of an economic depression, a painful divorce, World War II, McCarthyism, and cancer. Her letters to family and friends show a constant display of strength, almost to the point of harshness. This was the woman who won C.S. Lewis' heart!

This cheering book, at times, makes me laugh at not only Joy's irony, but God's. She remarks in one letter "Jack's juveniles [the Narnian series including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader] have a small steady sale . . . but we'll never get rich from those . . . the good thing is that they don't dwindle with time - but I think it's only the most successful juveniles that go on forever." While downplaying her cancer, she remarks about nasties such as financial nightmares and the fact that mild intestinal flu played hell with her beer-drinking! There is even a picture of Joy in 1958, wearing pants and wielding an air rifle!

While tea and shortbread have their place, Joy shows the very joy in beer, laughter, intellectual pursuits, and sheer chutzpah!
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If you want to know more about the personal side of Joy Davidman, this is a good book for that. The author started with an over view on her life. There are a few notes here and there that give some context to what she was writing about. I think that it would have been better if the author had intertwined more of the overview section in between the letters. It was good to get a big picture up front, but as you read through the letters, it would have been better to get those specifics in between the letters. Overall a good read.
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