Alister McGrath covered the life and works of C.S. Lewis in great detail, including his flaws and controversial points as well as his superb visionary works that defend the faith and point to the art of communicating ideas and truth to all generations. The books discusses where he grew up, how his father hurt him, what happened in 1917 that added to the hurt, where he went in 1919, who became his cornerstone, and who supported him but died alone in a nursing home. It told what gave him financial security, what caused him to move from atheism to Christianity, what happened when his brother Warnie moved to Oxford, whom he encouraged in his writings who would help him rediscover his Christian faith, how knowing God helps an author, what two worlds Lewis saw, and who also moved significantly on a faith journey. What did the Inklings have in common and what did they do, how was Lewis a literary midwife, what role did Lewis play for BBC in World War II, what caused America to love Lewis, what other books would add to his devotees, what caused him heartbreak in his late 40's, what caused hostility to him at Oxford, and why did he feel isolated there? Why did he invent Narnia, what gave the Chronicles of Narnia such appeal, what happened in 1956 that was strange, when Joy became seriously ill, what did he do, what do Reflections on the Psalms and the Four Loves reflect, and what caused him major legal problems? All these questions and more are answered in this book. If you love Lewis' books, this book will help you understand the man behind the stories. It is so deep however that it is too long to be a fun read.
While nearly everyone who grows up in an American, evangelical Christian home has heard of C.S. Lewis and his writings, I realized that I actually knew very little about his personal history. I knew he converted and subsequently became and influential defender of the faith. Beyond that, I knew nothing...McGrath put together a splendid biography of this great man. Often, biographies can become a dry recitation of facts. McGrath, however, kept the content interesting and engaging, which I appreciated. He remained neutral and objective, as a good biographer should.
C. S. Lewis grew up in Ireland until his mother passed away and his father sent him to England to boarding school. He hated the schools until he went to a private tutor. Then he went to the college he wanted to. He wanted to be a poet, but found his calling in writing books. Books about his life and a special series called the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe. He also became a University professor in England at a university he loved. He got married to an American woman who came to England to meet him because she was a writer, too. They got married and although she did pass away from cancer, they still had a good life together, leaving him her son from a previous marriage to take care of. After many books and papers written he passed away also with many honors. Today he is still idolized from many who still read and watch the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe series of movies and books.
C.S. Lewis: A Life is a book that tells the story of one of Britain's most loved authors. Like many, I read C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia and fell in love with the world that Lewis had created. As I grew older, I read many more of Lewis's books and when I found this book about C.S. Lewis, I just had to read it. Though I enjoyed this biography, I found myself shocked about the kind of life that C.S. Lewis lived. Though I knew he spent his earlier years as a non-Christian and was not the easiest man to get along with, I was shocked to learn what a prejudiced and proud man he was! I have to say that I view "one of my favorite authors" in a different light than I did before reading this book. I had no idea he hated Americans and had little respect for women or children. After reading of his attitudes concerning these things, I am glad that he died long before I was even born because I don't think I would have wanted to meet him. In fact, if I had known of these attitudes as a child, I would have avoided all books that he had written and I will think twice before I read any more books by C.S. Lewis. Though this was a well-written book and very enlightening, I wish I had never read this book because of the old adage: "Ignorance is Bliss"!
Alister McGrath sets out "not to praise Lewis or condemn him, but to understand him." That is why I wanted to read about Lewis' life, to understand the man behind the books I have so much appreciated. This is the kind of biography I enjoy reading (and I don't usually enjoy biographies), one that helps me understand the person without getting bogged down in details of his life unrelated to my interest in him.
I still learned a lot about his life, things I knew nothing about before regarding his childhood (I had no idea he was Irish!) and education, his unconventional "family" life as an adult, and his friendships with other writers and scholars. I knew a little about his conversion to Christianity and his work as a scholar of English literature, and it was these aspects of his life especially that I was interested in learning more about.
Apparently there is not all that much to tell about his conversion, because he didn't write a lot about it, either in his published books or his letters (the latter have only recently been made public and were the source of much of McGrath's information). What McGrath does spend a number of pages arguing, regarding Lewis' conversion, is the timing of it. Apparently Lewis himself remembered it wrong, and everyone else has gone along with Lewis' own account. This was mildly interesting, though not worth the number of pages McGrath devoted to it.
No doubt more could have been written about his work as a scholar, but perhaps that would make the book too long for the typical reader. I would have been interested in learning more about all of his works, including his fiction other than the Narnia books (which many people are unaware of) and his books about the Christian faith. But that could probably take another whole book - or several of them.
McGrath devotes the last portion of the book, after Lewis' death, to exploring how and why he became such an important - and highly regarded - figure among Evangelical Christians in the United States. The book is a good corrective to the overly adulatory view of Lewis that is common among many American Christians, while recognizing the important contributions he made and how his work can continue to be appreciated even though some of it feels rather dated.