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Jack's Life: The Life Story of C.S. Lewis Hardcover – October 1, 2005
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About the Author
Douglas Gresham is the son of Joy Davidman and stepson of C. S. Lewis, whom he knew as "Jack" while growing up in Oxford, England. Born in New York City, Gresham has lived all over the world, working as a farmer in Tasmania, a broadcast personality in Australia, and today helps lead a counseling ministry in Ireland. He is also the author of Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis. Gresham lives with his wife, Merrie, at Rathvinden House in Leighlinbridge, County Carlow.
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Top Customer Reviews
Jack's Life is an intimate look at the man, C.S. Lewis by this adoring stepson, who has clearly modeled his life after his stepfather. Not an exhaustive overview of Lewis works, not a volumnous fact-by-fact retelling of Lewis' childhood, Jacks Life is a breezy, conversational book. The reader feels as though he is sitting by a fireplace with a favorite uncle, hearing the old stories retold again and again.
A book like Jack's life could not have been written by anyone other than someone like Douglas Gresham, who not only knew about Jack, but about the many colorful characters that dotted his life, including the flawed, but loyal older brother Warnie, the gradually dowdy Mrs. Moore, Joy Davidson, the intellectual equal and only love of Jack's life, and the band of brothers known as the Inklings.
Those who don't want to make Lewis a life study, but are curious as to the man and his character, who would like to lift their understanding of him slightly past the marble and bronze figure we have created out of him, will enjoy Jack's Life.
In my opinion, he is the one man that certainly has the qualifications to write a book such as this, having shared in this man's personal life for twelve years.
I was entranced as Mr. Greshman released the true essence of the heart of a great man in his writing; revealing to us intimate moments, victories and defeats, tears and laughter of a great Christian whose life and works have touched millions. He shares stories of C.S. Lewis's early life and travels to his death, giving the reader deep insight into a man that has made his mark in history.
I particularly loved the DVD that is included with this book. On this DVD we are privileged to hear an interview with Mr.Greshman who shares in a wonderful tender way his life with his famous step-father. You could feel his love, respect and even his sadness at the loss of such a great man.
All in all this is a wonderful read and one that every serious C.S.Lewis fan does not want to miss. Thank you Mr. Greshman for opening your heart and sharing the precious memories of one exceptional man that were safely tucked deep inside. We, the readers, will certainly be enriched by sharing them with you. Highest Recommendation.
MidWest Book Review
Douglas Gresham's book about Lewis (1898-1963) is not strictly a memoir. Anecdotes of their shared lives are few.
Instead, he offers a biography that seems intended primarily for children (without saying so). It is an uneven performance.
Gresham sometimes affects an admonitory or jocular voice. Here are a couple of examples.
"Warnie (Lewis's brother) . . . was trying hard to be cool, never realizing that only those who don't try at all really are cool."
In his twenties, Lewis cared for an insane man for several harrowing weeks. The man "flipped out completely and went utterly bonkers," according to Gresham.
Gresham spares his reader very many dates, so chronology is often fuzzy. His account of Lewis's imaginative development is also vague.
For example, Lewis read Victorian author George MacDonald's romantic tale Phantastes when he was 16. This was so profound an experience that Lewis wrote about it in his autobiography. Gresham doesn't manage to suggest why the book so captivated Lewis. He not very helpfully says that Phantastes "is a fantasy that mixes all sorts of characters and events and keeps the reader alert and wondering all the way through" -- and moves on. That seems just lazy. Gresham could have exerted himself and offered more insight.
The treatment of Lewis's conversion and his Christian broadcasting and writing is sketchy. Gresham does not attempt to conjure up the life of an Oxford or Cambridge don.
Jack's Life pleases when Gresham describes Lewis's final residence. Lewis lived at The Kilns, a semi-rustic residence outside Oxford, from his early thirties till his death at 64. He loved the nine-acre property, and he and his brother, who shared it, planted hundreds of trees.
When Lewis married Joy Gresham in 1957, he did not expect her to live. The Gresham boys moved in at The Kilns while she was hospitalized with cancer. Douglas was about 12. His evocation of The Kilns in this book is good.
Paxford, the gardener and handyman, who like Lewis was a World War I veteran, slept in his own small dwelling on the property. Warnie, Lewis's brother, was a step-uncle for the boys.
Joy recovered sufficiently to be able to patrol the woods, shotgun at the ready, to warn off hooligans. Lewis used a pole to push a small boat out on the little lake. Douglas camped in a concrete air raid shelter from the WWII era, built by Lewis and Warnie. Douglas enjoyed the outdoors at The Kilns, but put a foot through rotten wood in his bedroom. Many improvements to the house were made during Joy's few years there.
Jack's Life belongs in the children's section of public libraries and in middle school and high school collections. Despite my exasperation with the author, I admit that this book is worth adding to these libraries. Young Narnians will find it a mostly engaging biography of the creator of Aslan, Mr. Tumnus, Reepicheep, the Pevensie children, and the gleaming towers of Cair Paravel.
I'm giving this book just two stars because, given the author's background and the financial comfort he enjoys thanks to his stepfather's royalties, he could have taken the time and put forth the effort to write something better than this little book.