371 of 380 people found the following review helpful
Only C.S. Lewis can write a story like this. A man takes a bus ride through Hell, then Heaven and witnesses the choices made by others in their lives.
The vivid stories within the story show that indecision is still a decision... it underscores the petty things in our lives that we allow to dominate us, things that will still plague us in Hell for eternity if we don't abandon them.
Lewis' concepts (fantasized, of course) of the substance of spirit versus the substance of flesh and blood are incredibly thought provoking. There are mental images I got from reading this book that I will never forget.
It is basic truth - you choose life, you choose death, or you choose not to choose. You will either give up the things that are holding you down (whether they be bitter resentments, anger, material gain, control, etc.) or you will cling to them until they become your master and you their slave.
The book presents these concepts in such a non-threatening way that you've gotten a life lesson that you don't realize until you've finished this short, yet vibrant book.
178 of 186 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2000
Although this book is written as a novella, it contains TONS of thinly disguised theological truths and brain-shaking ideas. This is one of those books where everything means something. Every bit of the scenic description of Heaven and Hell reveals something that Lewis believes to be true about the two places and how people respond to them. Other fascinating things about this book are the fictional characters and seeing how different types of people respond to being in Heaven. There is one man who realizes that now that he is in Heaven, and in the presence of God, he is no longer useful. But he doesn't want to start feeling useless, and so cannot enter the presence of God--because in Heaven God provides for everyone's needs. This book really makes you contemplate whether Christianity is more about the journey or the destination. It's entertaining and full of wisdom, and is a must-read.
124 of 133 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2000
Some folks only know Beethoven for his 9th symphony. Some folks only know C.S. Lewis for one of his "greater" works. (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia etc..) What a loss. Anyone who has read any C.S. Lewis should make the time over the course of their lives to read THIS C.S. Lewis. I loved this book. No writer in the twentieth century ever hit the nail more directly on the head when dealing with human nature than did Clive Staples Lewis. This book is a perfect example of his talent in this area. Not even the Screwtape Letters did it better. I heartily recommend this book to all readers.
63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2000
I don't think Lewis meant to "preach to the choir." He knows that many fine people deny Christianity because they think its a naive and silly belief. Lewis understands the skeptics mind and speaks directly to it. He isn't an entrenched, Christian Theologian, he is a normal man who speaks planely. In fact he almost always prefaces his books by downplaying his own knowledge of Christian Theology. This make Lewis very approachable, yet intellectually sound.
Unlike the other reviewers, I am not a Christian and I have read and enjoyed this book. Lewis was a die-hard ATHEIST before he became christian. He was a brilliant intellectual and made the leap of faith, not because he got hit on the head, but because he objectively analyzed the Bible. His background alone puts me immediatley at ease when I read him. He won't try to manipulate the facts to push you toward Christ. He just lays down his ideas, with nothing up his sleaves and lets you make of it what you will. Unlike many Christian apologists, he knows that you can't be forced into Christianity (God Knows Many Have Tried).
Skeptics, myself included, should read at least some of Lewis. I suggest Mere Christianity as a primer and then The Great Divorce. If you are a responsible intellectual, unsatisfied with other "Christian" apologies, and looking for concrete answers concerning the Christian Faith, it would be foolish to ignore Lewis.
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2000
The brilliance of "The Great Divorce" is Lewis' focus on the spiritual aspects of Heaven and Hell and not just the literal aspects. The very day I became a Christian, the thought entered my mind that the very worst things about Hell had to be the absence of love and the absence of Christ. That was as far as my thinking went. Lewis took me much further with this book-- The lustful man lives in a kind of Hell already. The woman with a forgiving and humble heart lives in a kind of Heaven already. In the Bible, believers are described as already seated with Christ in Heavenly places-- spiritually, they have already arrived at their eternal destination. The converse is true of unbelievers. They dwell in the dark shadows of the underworld-- willingly without love and without Christ, burning in the flames of their own selfishness. An excellent read!! Lewis mentions his predecessor, George MacDonald, in "The Great Divorce." I have read that Lewis derived much of his theology from MacDonald's interpretations. I recommend MacDonald's book "Phantastes," the very book which Lewis partly credits for his conversion. I also recommend highly, and I do mean highly "Castle of Wisdom" by Rhett Ellis.
51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2002
Lewis' "The Great Divorce" is a book that I have owned for years but only recently read. I don't know why it took me so long, but now that I have read it I want to read it again all the more. I guess that is a sign of a good book. Many of you reading this review are no doubt familiar with Lewis the philosopher, theologian, writer, and speaker. Suffice to say he remains one of the most esteemed and brilliant thinkers and writers of the last century.
This book easily compares to the best of his work. The idea of using a fantasy-land constructed around a bus trip to try to give us some look into the unknown is pure Lewis. A dark, desolate, rainy bus stop gives us a mental picture of hell that reminds me of the films "Blade Runner" and "Dark City". The descriptions of a heaven-like place given in the book remind me of the house of Elrond and the elvish city in the recent "Lord of the Rings". The book essentially follows the author as he tours both of these worlds-seemingly seperated by a million miles. With George MacDonald as his guide, the author witnesses many interactions between those in the 'heavenly' world and those arriving from hell on a bus. The heavenly beings-who are solid-attempt to convince the spirits aboard the tour to remain with them and allow themselves to be made whole by the overseer of the heavenly realm.
Unfortunately, most of the spirits prefer to deal with their various troubles 'some other time' or not at all. Wishing to remain as they are, they refuse the help of the heavenly beings. We witness spirits literally and figuratively in chains of pity, anger, pride, arrogance, and fear. The answer to all of these maladies is offered to them with outstretched arms, they need only accept the gift.
The most powerful exchange in the book comes between a spirit who arrives with a little red lizard on his shoulder. (Readers of Lewis will recognize this from his earlier essay 'Horrid Red Things' in "God in the Dock"). The lizard embodies the spirit's struggles with lust; it continuously goads him on. As the spirit comes into contact with one of the heavenly angels, the angel states that if the man will only ask him to, he will kill the lizard. The lizard immediately warns the spirit that the angel is capable of this and reminds the spirit that if this is allowed, he-the spirit-will never enjoy the pleasures of lust and sin again. The spirit hems and haws, asking the angel many questions. Each time the angel responds "...MAY I KILL IT?"
It is heartbreaking to read as the spirit decides to allow the angel-hands hovering just around the neck of the lizard-to kill it, only to relent when he realizes that he himself will be hurt in the process of obtaining freedom. The angel responds: "I never said it would not hurt you, only that it would not kill you." This seems eerily similar to so many of us in the 'real' world who, when offered freedom thru Christ and the solutions to our myriad of social, emotional, spiritual, and physical struggles, raise an angry hand to God and reject His offer. How many of us want our problems to be fixed, our wounds healed and our pain dealt with-without any pain!? How many of us prefer to hold onto the very things that are destroying us? Keeping us from God?
A brilliant treatise on the ability of the human-in this case the spirit of departed humans-to rationalize and justify our behavior, whether it be an overbearing, controlling mother, a frightened woman, a man diseased with lust, those consumed by career, or any of the other characters in the book. Look deeper because there is a message for everyone in this book. A powerful allegory of the struggle to make the Gospel known to others.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2002
Allow me to begin by saying that I am, at best, skeptic regarding the existence of God. Yet, C. S. Lewis remains being one of my favourite authors, and this is by far one my favourite books by him. Through the allegory of a bus journey, this Christian writer allows to enter what he believes Heaven and Hell to be like. This, however, is just the means Lewis uses to face us with something much deeper and, to many of us skeptics, mind-boggling: The question of Free Will. Why is it that some people are granted entrance to Heaven, while others are doomed to Hell? How can a benevolent God punish his creatures so cruelly? He does not, Lewis claims; it is us who make the choice, whether consciously or not. This is what THE GREAT DIVORCE is about: making us aware of our own actions and where they lead us, thus forcing us to take a good, hard look at human nature... and our own. Afraid to do so? Then you should definitely read it.
PS: What can I say? I've declared myself an atheist for a long time. Yet, the more C. S. Lewis I read, the more I doubt my beliefs- or lack thereof.
56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2002
As Lewis explains in his preface, The Great Divorce is a response to the attitude of William Blake, among others, that someday there will be an ideal union of the secular and divine, or Heaven and Hell. Unable to see how this could ever be, Lewis wrote The Great Divorce to explore the issue further. The result is a religous allegory of the highest caliber and impeccable, nearly frightening, insight.
As with all allegories, The Great Divorce relies on symbolism to make its point. Lewis admits his book is not to be taken literally as a tour guide of either Heaven or Hell, but merely as an artistic expression of his ideas. And the plot device works well--Lewis's intensely brilliant yet readily accessible and familiar writing style makes it easy to imagine oneself in the narrator's shoes on the uneasy bus ride out of Hell, hunkering under the great mountains of Glory, or even talking uncertainly with Ghosts or Spirits (oh yes, there is a big difference!).
The Great Divorce is a fine read for anyone, believer or unbeliever. The former will find many challenges and assurances; the latter will discover new insights into the Christian faith not readily available from other sources. Above all, The Great Divorce is a Dante-esque tour of not only the Worlds Beyond, but just as importantly one of the often unexplored metaphysical World within us all.
105 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2001
Please don't be amazed at my poor rating of this book; it is not actually a rating of the great C.S. Lewis's "The Great Divorce," of which the earlier reviews speak eloquently; rather, it is this particular edition by HarperCollins/Zondervan. Simply put, this edition is liberally peppered with typographic errors, perhaps even a missing word here or there--you won't be able to tell unless you get a reliable edition elsewhere and compare the two. But I found errors like "to" spelled as "eo," "the" spelled "teh," and so on, far too many simple errors to be permitted in such a slender volume. Hey, Harper/Collins and Zondervan: no one cares if fundamentalist claptrap books has typographical errors, since these are not read by thinkers, but when you set to reprint a work by one of the Great Authors, at least show him the courtesy of hiring an editor and proofreader to check the galley pages. Suffice it to say, since this edition is part of the "Signature Series," and presumably other Lewis books in the series is prepared in a similarly slipshod fashion, I will have to look for other editions of Lewis's works that I don't as yet own. (Of course, none of this may be important to the reader if he doesn't mind less than acceptable fidelity to the original editions of "The Great Divorce": in which case, I suppose this edition is better than none.)--A Former Editor
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2002
A friend told me that this book opened his eyes to the fact that some people don't want answers, only debate and politics. He couldn't believe people would think that way, but then he went to college and experienced them for himself.
Lewis has written a fun, memorable story about going to hell in a dream (or vision) and taking a bus tour of heaven. The ghostly figures that file timidly off the bus are barely visible in the bright light of heaven, and the grass is so much more real (or true) than they are it hurts their feet. One man tried to steal a golden apple, and he may as well have been trying to hiest a boulder. Lewis himself, writing in first person, feared a coming rain may pummel them into the ground.
But after the initial shock of a world more real than he could imagine, he watched the other tourist interact with heavenly friends who had come to greet them. Some of them were friends from earth, some just kind-hearted people. Again and again the hellions (if I may call them that) choose to hold on to their worthless pride or foolhearty beliefs rather than humble themselves to the truth. Pride manifests itself in a hundred subtle ways as these pitiful souls whine about perceived injustices or irrational motives. Thankfully, a few tourists do humble themselves, become transformed into marvelously real beings, and remain in heaven. But most don't, about which the great Scottish author George MacDonald, Lewis' heavenly guide, says, "They may not be rejecting the truth of heaven now. They may be reenacting the rejection they made while on earth."
This book has curious insight into our human hearts and teaches a few Biblical ideas in very memorable ways. I enjoyed reading it myself and again aloud to my wife. Lewis has a nice, readable style. 4 stars, only because a guy can't give everything good five stars.