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C. S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet Hardcover – March 1, 2013
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*Starred Review* Medievalist, Christian apologist, and fantasist C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) has had exponentially more readers since his death than he enjoyed in his lifetime. Biographies and studies of his work are legion. Despite that copious documentation, Oxford theologian McGrath discovered a major inaccuracy in all previous accounts of Lewis, including his glowing spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy (1955). Diligent combing of Lewis’ correspondence disclosed that his conversion to Christianity—the catalyst for virtually all his creative work—occurred in 1930, not 1929. Well, Lewis admitted he wasn’t good with dates, and a plethora of anxiety-inducing deadlines involved in the major developments in his life rather justify his confusion. McGrath doesn’t speculate about how Lewis’ chronic achronology may have affected his work. Instead, he limns Lewis’ major experiences—early loss of his mother, horrifying schooling, WWI service (about which he never spoke), long Oxford fellowship, BBC-fostered celebrity in the 1940s, creation of Narnia, late-career move to Cambridge, and brief marriage to Joy Davidman (1915–60)—his great friendships (especially with J. R. R. Tolkien), and his books. McGrath does this so limpidly, so intelligently, and so sympathetically that this biography is the one Lewis’ admirers—especially those who, like him, believe that books are to be read and enjoyed—should prefer to all others. --Ray Olson
There have been plenty of biographies of Lewis―I once wrote one myself―but I do not think there has been a better one than Alister McGrath’s. He is a punctilious and enthusiastic reader of all Lewis’s work―the children’s stories, the science fiction, the Christian apologetics and the excellent literary criticism and literary history. He is from Northern Ireland, as Lewis was himself, and he is especially astute about drawing out the essentially Northern Irish qualities of this very odd man. And he is sympathetic to the real oddness of his story. (A. N. Wilson, TheDailyBeast.com)
On the 50th anniversary of his death, this new C. S. Lewis biography succeeds in deepening the appeal of his works The most abiding gift of C. S. Lewis: A Life is its fierce curiosity about the novels, letters, and books of popular philosophy that are Lewis’ most substantial legacy. McGrath’s biography promises to introduce new readers to those works―and inspire veteran C. S. Lewis fans to visit them again. (Christian Science Monitor)
If you’re looking for a lively, general introduction to this multitalented thinker and writer, Alister McGrath’s new biography is a good place to start. (Washington Post Book World)
Alister McGrath’s C. S. Lewis: A Life now supplies a welcome balance, along with some significant discoveries. Mr. McGrath is well placed, culturally speaking, to understand and sympathize with Lewis. . . . One comes away with a renewed sympathy for a provocative, perceptive, contrarian and somewhat tormented soul (Wall Street Journal)
McGrath is not intimidated by Lewis nor overly reverential of him; but he shows him a professional respect that ought to silence those who dismiss Lewis as a theological amateur. He points out that under its clothing of reasoned argument, Lewis’ theology is always founded on a profoundly aesthetic effort: to draw us a picture of the Christian universe and our place in it that moves, attracts and persuades us, so that we say: yes, this is what life is really like, and how much more real it is than we ever imagined. A powerful achievement. (The Tablet)
While readers of C. S. Lewis might assume a biography would cover his literature, this account comes from an eminent theologian and focuses on Lewis’ spiritual life and conversion―and therefore is a definitive survey of Lewis’ conversion and faith, recommended for spirituality holdings above all else. Dr. McGrath is the only scholar to analyze the entire collection of Lewis’ letters and archives: his survey is a powerful biography combining elements of spiritual and literary analysis, and is a special pick for any Christian collection. (Midwest Book Review)
An excellent scholarly read encompassing new ideas for Lewis devotees or those interested in religious argument. (Kirkus Reviews)
To the question of whether the world really needs another biography of C.S. Lewis, McGrath’s lucid and unsentimental portrait of the Christian champion responds with a resounding “yes.” The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death, and times have changed and evangelical sentiments have matured. McGrath offers a new and at times shocking look into the complicated life of this complex figure, in a deeply researched biography. The author takes us headlong into the heart of a Lewis we’ve known little about: his unconventional affair with Mrs. Jane Moore; his hostile and deceptive relationship with his father; his curiosity about the sensuality of cruelty. McGrath navigates the reader through these messy themes, ultimately landing us onto the solid ground of Lewis’s postconversion legacy. He shows with skill, sympathy, dispassion, and engaging prose that Lewis, like the rest of us, did the best he could with the hand he was dealt. But he got over it, as must all those who would prefer a Lewis without shadows. (Publishers Weekly)
McGrath does this so limpidly, so intelligently, and so sympathetically that this biography is the one Lewis’ admirers―especially those who, like him, believe that books are to be read and enjoyed―should prefer to all others. (Booklist)
A thoroughly researched yet very readable, chronological account of C.S. Lewis’ life, his literature, and his journey from atheism to Christianity. Fifty years after his death, the words of Lewis continue to inspire many, and McGrath’s biography may help to unravel some of the mystery behind his eccentric mind. Staff Pick (ForeWord Reviews)
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I will say, however, that after about 1945, it seemed to get somewhat boring for me. At that point, it seemed to be repeating much of what had already been explored, but was nevertheless still interesting.
All in all, this is a great biography and I highly recommend it!
In addition, as all good biographers do, McGrath faithfully exposed Lewis's strengths and weaknesses. The net affect was a greater love for Lewis, appreciation for his genius, and ability to identify with him as a human being.
Last, McGrath did an excellent job of summarizing each of Lewis's major works, when he wrote them, why, and each one's individual strengths and weaknesses.
All in all, a wonderful biography. I highly recommend.
The book also gives some great summaries of his books and some excellent pictures of Lewis and the people who surrounded his life.
I liked the notes about Lewis as an educator, there were even a few sentiments from his students.
I would like to say after this biography I know him better, but I think the character of Lewis became more complex!
Most recent customer reviews
Enjoy the details.