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The White Witch, Aslan, fauns and talking beasts, centaurs and epic battles between good and evil -- all these have become a part of our collective imagination through the classic volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. Over the past half century, children everywhere have escaped into this world and delighted in its wonders and enchantments. Yet what we do know of the man who The White Witch, Aslan, fauns and talking beasts, centaurs and epic battles between good and evil -- all these have become a part of our collective imagination through the classic volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. Over the past half century, children everywhere have escaped into this world and delighted in its wonders and enchantments. Yet what we do know of the man who created Narnia? This biography sheds new light on the making of the original Narnian, C. S. Lewis himself. Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential religious writer of his day. An Oxford don and scholar of medieval literature, he loved to debate philosophy at his local pub, and his wartime broadcasts on the basics of Christian belief made him a celebrity in his native Britain. Yet one of the most intriguing aspects of Clive Staples Lewis remains a mystery. How did this middle-aged Irish bachelor turn to the writing of stories for children -- stories that would become among the most popular and beloved ever written? Alan Jacobs masterfully tells the story of the original Narnian. From Lewis's childhood days in Ireland playing with his brother, Warnie, to his horrific experiences in the trenches during World War I, to his friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien (and other members of the "Inklings"), and his remarkable late-life marriage to Joy Davidman, Jacobs traces the events and people that shaped Lewis's philosophy, theology, and fiction. The result is much more than a conventional biography of Lewis: Jacobs tells the story of a profound and extraordinary imagination. For those who grew up with Narnia, or for those just discovering it, The Narnian tells a remarkable tale of a man who knew great loss and great delight, but who knew above all that the world holds far more richness and meaning than the average eye can see.


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The White Witch, Aslan, fauns and talking beasts, centaurs and epic battles between good and evil -- all these have become a part of our collective imagination through the classic volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. Over the past half century, children everywhere have escaped into this world and delighted in its wonders and enchantments. Yet what we do know of the man who The White Witch, Aslan, fauns and talking beasts, centaurs and epic battles between good and evil -- all these have become a part of our collective imagination through the classic volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. Over the past half century, children everywhere have escaped into this world and delighted in its wonders and enchantments. Yet what we do know of the man who created Narnia? This biography sheds new light on the making of the original Narnian, C. S. Lewis himself. Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential religious writer of his day. An Oxford don and scholar of medieval literature, he loved to debate philosophy at his local pub, and his wartime broadcasts on the basics of Christian belief made him a celebrity in his native Britain. Yet one of the most intriguing aspects of Clive Staples Lewis remains a mystery. How did this middle-aged Irish bachelor turn to the writing of stories for children -- stories that would become among the most popular and beloved ever written? Alan Jacobs masterfully tells the story of the original Narnian. From Lewis's childhood days in Ireland playing with his brother, Warnie, to his horrific experiences in the trenches during World War I, to his friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien (and other members of the "Inklings"), and his remarkable late-life marriage to Joy Davidman, Jacobs traces the events and people that shaped Lewis's philosophy, theology, and fiction. The result is much more than a conventional biography of Lewis: Jacobs tells the story of a profound and extraordinary imagination. For those who grew up with Narnia, or for those just discovering it, The Narnian tells a remarkable tale of a man who knew great loss and great delight, but who knew above all that the world holds far more richness and meaning than the average eye can see.

30 review for The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    The single best book on Lewis I have ever read. Not just the facts but Jacobs discusses all the things we all wonder about Lewis in our own minds. Of course, I cried at the end. Just like I always do.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    A long and enjoyable romp through the life and ideas of Lewis. This book is not for the casual reader. It takes ages to get through and the writing is thick and circuitous (in a good way). But it is so much more than a biography: it explores the thoughts of Lewis. It's an exploration not only of his life, but his work. I don't know how else to describe it. This book is a magnificent journey, if you're willing to go on an adventure! A wonderful Lewis biography right up there with McGrath's C. S. L A long and enjoyable romp through the life and ideas of Lewis. This book is not for the casual reader. It takes ages to get through and the writing is thick and circuitous (in a good way). But it is so much more than a biography: it explores the thoughts of Lewis. It's an exploration not only of his life, but his work. I don't know how else to describe it. This book is a magnificent journey, if you're willing to go on an adventure! A wonderful Lewis biography right up there with McGrath's C. S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dan Glover

    I loved this biography of Lewis and, in particular, of his imagination. I have praised it left, right and sideways, when people have asked me about it. So for the record, I wish to add my voice to the chorus of praises being sung about this book, and will not restate the many strengths of this book here. However, unlike many reviews I've heard or read, I cannot praise it without reserve. Epecially since its one glaring error finds its place between the covers of the same book that does such a go I loved this biography of Lewis and, in particular, of his imagination. I have praised it left, right and sideways, when people have asked me about it. So for the record, I wish to add my voice to the chorus of praises being sung about this book, and will not restate the many strengths of this book here. However, unlike many reviews I've heard or read, I cannot praise it without reserve. Epecially since its one glaring error finds its place between the covers of the same book that does such a good job of recognizing and describing something so central and foundational to Lewis man and mind , and which has largely been neglected by previous biographers: Lewis as last of the Old Western Men. I was disappointed with Jacob's handling of Lewis's take on gender roles/relationships and his stance against modern feminism as found in his writings. In light of Jacob's excellent description of Lewis as an Old Western Man (something Lewis described himself as), it boggles the mind how Jacobs can see Lewis's opposition to the ordination of women, as well as certain other of his statements and treatments of the differences in gender roles (husband's headship in marriage as found in Mere Christianity) as something which Lewis would think differently on if he were alive today. Far from Lewis being the one confused and conflicted over his own thinking on this issue, it is clearly Jacobs who is confused and can't seem to see past his own buy-in to the feminist understanding of gender of his own day and culture. Also, for Jacobs to base Lewis's opposition to the ordination of women ministers in the church to Lewis's high church Anglican (or Anglo-catholic) view of the celebration of the Eucharist, where the minister represents Christ to the Bride (church) and to state that this is not the view of the vast majority of Protestants is misleading at best and irresponsible and dishonest scholarship at worst. While it is true that the majority of Protestants don't hold such a high view of the priest's function in the Eucharist (or don't agree that a minister of the gospel is infact a "priest" any more than the rest of the congregation), it is not correct to say that the majority of protestants don't share Lewis's perspective on the ordination of women and the role of the minister to represent Christ to the congregation in some fashion. In fact, Protestants have traditionally seen this as part of the minister's role, though not in precisely the same way as Roman Catholics, High Anglicans or Orthodox. They still have seen, however, that when a minister is in the pulpit or leading the congregation in worship, the minister must be male (along with all the other biblical qualifications) so as to maintain the imagery of Christ the husband speaking to his bride, the Church, through a masculine spokesman (some recent or contemporary low-church Anglicans who hold to this are John Stott, J.I. Packer, and J.C. Ryle). It is only recently that much of the Protestant church has abandoned this view. So historically speaking, Jacobs stands in the minority view, one which has capitulated to the pressures of modern secular feminism, and Lewis stands in the historical majority view, one which is still shared by Christians seeking to remain faithful to Scripture in its instruction of the functioning of the church. Jacobs seems to be the one who is confused on this issue and who projects his wishes that Lewis had made himself more palletable to the feminist scholars in whose circles Jacobs no doubt presently labours. This was not the glaring inconsistency and sectarian oddity in Lewis's otherwise "mere Christianity" which Jacobs thinks it is but was a faithful and consistent part of Lewis's make-up as an Old Western Man and a Christian committed to biblical faithfulness and the traditions of the church as handed down from the Apostles. Feminism in the church is largely a result of pure reason applied to a given issue separated from the "mythology" of the biblical narrative. No wonder Lewis, the man who couldn't be won to the faith through pure logical argument and reason, but had to come to see the beauty of the story, rejected what is simply a philosophical and psychological argument from reason, divorced from the plain text of Scripture and from the sweep of the story it is telling, which is a romance (in the old sense) that we experience in the narrative and that we act out in our functioning as the Church, the Bride of Christ, who is as yet in the care of the groomsmen and under-shepherds (ministers). Let no one who has ever read the Lewis canon go on thinking that Lewis had a low view of women or viewed them as generally weaker than or inferior to men. I've seen more than one feminist author tear a strip off Lewis for what he says about Susan in The Last Battle (interested in boys and clothes and parties, perhaps not unlike the girlfriend in his short work, The Shoddy Lands). Yet those same feminists all fail to recognize that Lewis also consistently describes Lucy as the character with the most consistent, most constant and strongest faith of all the children who ever visited Narnia. Lewis clearly viewed his mother as his father’s spiritual superior and viewed his wife Joy as his equal intellectually and probably his superior in strength of faith and bravery in suffering. Far from misogynistic, in his writings Lewis displays a high, biblical and complementary view of women. But his high view of women is not an egalitarian view and that is something that feminists can’t stand, interpreting Lewis’s deference and chivalry toward women as condescending and patronizing. But to really understand what Lewis thought, one has to get inside his mind as an Old Western Man, not observe his actions and read his works through the grid of modern feminist egalitarianism. Other than that inconsistency, this truly was a great book and I very highly recommend it. Were I to write a comprehensive review of the entire book, this critique would be only a small part of the whole. However, as I haven't seen anyone else take Jacobs to task on this one flaw in his otherwise great biography, I squeaked up. But I do hope someone who is someone takes Jacobs to task on this point. If it hadn't been for this glaring inconsistency in this otherwise great book, I would have given it 5 stars (six, if it was an option). As it was, I barely convinced myself to give it 4 but someone has to.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Kyriosity

    Splendid. I feel I know Lewis a thousand times better after listening to The Narnian. I am especially grateful for audiobooks that are read by the author, as I can trust that the text is being faithfully expressed. Just one small peeve about the formatting: the tracks ran entirely too long for an audio book. Get distracted for a moment and want to listen to some last little bit, and you might have to go back 5 or 10 minutes to catch it again. So one could spend an entire commute and not actually Splendid. I feel I know Lewis a thousand times better after listening to The Narnian. I am especially grateful for audiobooks that are read by the author, as I can trust that the text is being faithfully expressed. Just one small peeve about the formatting: the tracks ran entirely too long for an audio book. Get distracted for a moment and want to listen to some last little bit, and you might have to go back 5 or 10 minutes to catch it again. So one could spend an entire commute and not actually hear any more of the book than you'd heard before. Audio book tracks should be no longer than three minutes.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    The Chronicles are among my favorite books ever, and I happily reread them all every few years. I took up this biography to learn more about how C. S. Lewis came to create his marvelous stories. But although the book bills itself as a biography of the man's intellectual and creative development, what I find most important and fascinating about that development--just why Lewis became a Christian so relatively late in life, after being an avowed atheist, and how he conceived the Chronicles--remain The Chronicles are among my favorite books ever, and I happily reread them all every few years. I took up this biography to learn more about how C. S. Lewis came to create his marvelous stories. But although the book bills itself as a biography of the man's intellectual and creative development, what I find most important and fascinating about that development--just why Lewis became a Christian so relatively late in life, after being an avowed atheist, and how he conceived the Chronicles--remain shrouded in mystery even after about 300 pages. There is much discussion of the themes of Lewis's work, including the religious and mythical underpinnings of Narnia. But I don't want someone to interpret Narnia to me; I want to know where it came from. And with a few exceptions (some of them in the book's introductory pages, where they might promise more depth to come), Jacobs glosses over how Lewis wrote the Chronicles. Indeed all of the books' incredibly rapidfire emergence from Lewis's prolific pen is covered in about a page. This book is a better fit for a reader interested in religious criticism and the culture of Oxford after World War I. Fans of J.R.R. Tolkein, though, will find much to enjoy in Jacobs's detailing of how the friendship between Tolkein and Lewis first blossomed as Lewis discovered both his Christian faith and his writing voice, then strained and soured as Lewis became a more outspoken advocate of Christianity and a more well-known writer. Moreover, Lewis's patchwork of allusions to different myths (Father Christmas and the White Witch and Bacchus in the same story? why not, according to Lewis) offended and irritated the purist Tolkein.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Jacobs is never afraid to sanely deal with issues other biographers have quibbled over; he interweaves the life with the imagination in a wonderful way, never trying to prove more than can be proved but always coming to sound conclusions; and he dialogues with his reader in a way that some biographers might not think was the done thing, but which gives us insight into Jacobs’ own thinking. The basic ‘facts’ of Lewis’ life are by now well-known: he was a confirmed atheist until his late twenties; Jacobs is never afraid to sanely deal with issues other biographers have quibbled over; he interweaves the life with the imagination in a wonderful way, never trying to prove more than can be proved but always coming to sound conclusions; and he dialogues with his reader in a way that some biographers might not think was the done thing, but which gives us insight into Jacobs’ own thinking. The basic ‘facts’ of Lewis’ life are by now well-known: he was a confirmed atheist until his late twenties; he discovered the reality of God but took some time to grasp it; he was always an extraordinarily prolific writer but even more so in the midst of his teaching duties at Oxford (and later Cambridge); he had an unusual relationship with Mrs Moore, a woman old enough to be his mother; and, late in life, after she died, he finally found the love of his life with Joy Davidson, who then died herself not long after their marriage. He produced a crop of successful books (many of them Christian apologetics for the man in the street), the wondrous Narnia stories, three fantasy novels and the intriguing Till We Have Faces. But he was also highly regarded in his time for his work in English Literature: two of his books, The Allegory of Love and English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, are classics of their kind. Jacobs is an Anglican, and a Professor of English at Wheaton College, which makes him well able to appreciate both Lewis’ Christianity and his love of literature. It’s likely, in fact, that any Professor of English would appreciate a man like Lewis, who, in preparation for work on his book on English literature, read every single sixteenth-century book in the Duke Humfrey's Library, the oldest part of Oxford's great Bodleian Library. Jacobs is good at delineating the relationships between the various people in Lewis’ life: the tensions between Lewis and the closest members of his family (his father and brother - his mother died when he was young); his friendships with other writers and the men who formed the ‘Inklings;’ his long-suffering care of Mrs Moore and her daughter, who both lived with Lewis for many years, and, as his popularity grew, the vast army of people who wrote to him for advice, comfort and friendship. Though Lewis lived as a true disciple of Christ he struggled in the same way any Christian does, with ethical matters, with crises of faith, with pride, and with loving those who didn't necessarily love in return. Though he was a superb apologist, he could still dig himself into a hole; though he was widely regarded as an excellent teacher, he hated some aspects of the job. There must now be at least a good half-dozen biographies of Lewis out there (including A N Wilson’s often wrong-headed one), but for me this is by far the pick of the crop.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Hodge podge and mish-mash account of Lewis' life. Some parts are thorough, like his account of Lewis and the war. However other parts, such as his relationship to Tolkien, feel more like commentary after the fact. I wanted it to be either or story (covering the major events) or analysis of important themes with connection to events. Jacobs cannot decide which he wants to do. Speaking of which, sometimes Jacobs irritates me with annoying comments on Lewis' 'sexism' and his critics of Lewis' works. Hodge podge and mish-mash account of Lewis' life. Some parts are thorough, like his account of Lewis and the war. However other parts, such as his relationship to Tolkien, feel more like commentary after the fact. I wanted it to be either or story (covering the major events) or analysis of important themes with connection to events. Jacobs cannot decide which he wants to do. Speaking of which, sometimes Jacobs irritates me with annoying comments on Lewis' 'sexism' and his critics of Lewis' works. I have heard Alan Jacobs speak and he's very thoughtful in person, but he had no business going some places in this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    AmyRose

    A good bio of Lewis, though McGrath's is still my favorite. Full of quotations from Lewis's books/letters, and interacts with alot of the literature about Lewis. I listened on audio and wished for a different narrator, but perhaps that's too picky. Solid book overall. A good bio of Lewis, though McGrath's is still my favorite. Full of quotations from Lewis's books/letters, and interacts with alot of the literature about Lewis. I listened on audio and wished for a different narrator, but perhaps that's too picky. Solid book overall.

  9. 4 out of 5

    James

    Whoever you think C.S. Lewis was, you are probably wrong, at least in part. This is a really fascinating back-story on how Jack Lewis got from son of an alcoholic, emotionally obtuse father to professor at caimbridge, Oxford and author of many novels and works of scholarship, indluding the Narnia series. Did you know he had a whipping fetish when he was young? It's true! His relationship with the mother of a dear friend he lost in the war was also something I had never fully understood. He clear Whoever you think C.S. Lewis was, you are probably wrong, at least in part. This is a really fascinating back-story on how Jack Lewis got from son of an alcoholic, emotionally obtuse father to professor at caimbridge, Oxford and author of many novels and works of scholarship, indluding the Narnia series. Did you know he had a whipping fetish when he was young? It's true! His relationship with the mother of a dear friend he lost in the war was also something I had never fully understood. He clearly had a complicated relationship with women. But he also possessed an unquenchable search for truth and beauty and joy and and unfailing sense of kindness. I came away from this book admiring him for all his strengths and flaws and, frankly, a better handle on the world. I kinda want to be just like him in some ways. I'm also resolved to read "'til we have faces" one more time, because I clearly didn't get it the first time. Highly recommended. As a side note: I wonder if it will be possible to write this biography in the future. We know so much about Lewis because he and all his friends and family communicated regularly by letter and kept comprehensive journals. One wonders how they got anything done at all with all the writing they were doing. I have a hard time believing we'll be able to piece as complete a picture together in 100 years from email conversations.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is not the first biography of one of my heroes. But this one might be the best literary / theological history of the great Christian apologist and theologian. Along with a basic life story, I found it to be a remarkable and fascinating analysis of the evolution of his thought, the inter-relationships of ideas among his novels and books, his friendships and interactions with family, friends, and others, and much more. The book was deeply researched and superbly written, debunking some scanda This is not the first biography of one of my heroes. But this one might be the best literary / theological history of the great Christian apologist and theologian. Along with a basic life story, I found it to be a remarkable and fascinating analysis of the evolution of his thought, the inter-relationships of ideas among his novels and books, his friendships and interactions with family, friends, and others, and much more. The book was deeply researched and superbly written, debunking some scandalous rumors or providing other realistic interpretations. The author is clearly an ardent "fan" of Lewis, but still confronts some of the more challenging aspects of Lewis' life, both in his relationships and in his spiritual development. I loved every minute. Now, with this context, I want to go back and re-read all the novels, science fiction, essays, and theology!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Well done. Jacobs did his homework, and expands and explains much that Lewis only hinted at in Surprised by Joy. Thoughtful passages on Lewis' last decade as he settled into professorship at Cambridge so long denied him by Oxford and came to deal with his own obsolescence, not to mention mortality. Well done. Jacobs did his homework, and expands and explains much that Lewis only hinted at in Surprised by Joy. Thoughtful passages on Lewis' last decade as he settled into professorship at Cambridge so long denied him by Oxford and came to deal with his own obsolescence, not to mention mortality.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I have read a lot about Lewis starting with my philosophy class about Lewis’s life and work in college, so I have read at least two other biographies of Lewis. This one was unique in that it was as much about Lewis’s mind and intellect as it was about his life. This was a perfect time for me to read it because I know so much more about twentieth century England and Oxford and the intellectual milieu of the time than I ever have before. Jacobs does an excellent job of exploring all that in depth I have read a lot about Lewis starting with my philosophy class about Lewis’s life and work in college, so I have read at least two other biographies of Lewis. This one was unique in that it was as much about Lewis’s mind and intellect as it was about his life. This was a perfect time for me to read it because I know so much more about twentieth century England and Oxford and the intellectual milieu of the time than I ever have before. Jacobs does an excellent job of exploring all that in depth while also focusing on what made Lewis unique: his Christian faith, his commitment to imagination, and his delight in old books. (There is a funny passage about how much Lewis hated T.S. Eliot and his early work. Apparently Lewis had no idea until later that Eliot had become a Christian and that their lives had many striking parallels.) As Jacobs traces Lewis’s intellectual development, he also shows how Lewis’s ideas manifest in the Narnia books and how consistent Lewis’s books are in theme even though he wrote in so many different genres. I think my only disappointment in the biography was that I was expecting more in-depth exploration of Lewis’s actual writing of the Narnia books and Jacobs’ commentary on the content of Narnia. As I mentioned before, it was laced through the whole book instead of being concentrated in one chapter. Honestly, it’s amazing Lewis wrote anything and yet he was prolific. He was extraordinarily busy, wrote gazillions of letters, held a rigorous day job, and was increasingly sought after as he became more and more famous. He also seems to have been a man with an extraordinary capacity for human connection and friendship. I was delighted to see Dorothy Sayers’ name pop up several times as a person he regularly corresponded with. When Jacobs describes Joy’s death and later Lewis’s death, I teared up both times. They both lived lives of such vivacity, such intellectual rigor, such delight in life itself. Even after a third biography of Lewis, I’m not at all tired with him. Bring on all the Lewis content!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    My book of the year for 2017, even though I don't normally like biographies, and even though I tragically didn't finish it until 2018 (if only I could bring myself to stop reading the texts I assign in class)... This book has everything I love. It is equal parts biography of Lewis, whom I respect; spiritual insight, which I value; and literary analysis, which, I have recently come to realize, probably gets my heart racing even more than a good action plot. For example, the chapter on Lewis's chil My book of the year for 2017, even though I don't normally like biographies, and even though I tragically didn't finish it until 2018 (if only I could bring myself to stop reading the texts I assign in class)... This book has everything I love. It is equal parts biography of Lewis, whom I respect; spiritual insight, which I value; and literary analysis, which, I have recently come to realize, probably gets my heart racing even more than a good action plot. For example, the chapter on Lewis's childhood in boarding schools includes a literary analysis of how he writes about primary education in his books, then draws significant, applicable meaning from that analysis. The chapter on Joy's death includes literary analysis of Till We Have Faces, A Grief Observed, and Letters to Malcolm, drawing out relevant insights about death from Lewis's experiences of it. And the literary analysis is of books I love. Good analysis of even a bad book can redeem the book; good analysis of good books is simply delightful. I marked up every page. I wrote "oooh!" in the margin. I choked up. I wrote, "My soul is soaring!" next to one paragraph. And I permanently benefited from several of Jacobs' thematic meditations, which sprinkle each chapter. The chapter on Lewis's theory of education itself was worth the money I spent on the entire book (it was the one in which my soul soared), and it changed how I approach teaching for the better. Jacobs is an empathetic biographer: he respects and admires Lewis even while unafraid to delve into some less-than-admirable foibles and sins. It's an honest, intelligent, yet good-natured approach that I gobbled up, and that's coming from someone whose experience of non-fiction is usually less "gobble" and more "trudge."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    I love when biographies encompass the subject's entire life, and this book does this exceedingly well. I was a little apprehensive to read it based on the title, thinking it might only focus on Lewis as the author of the Narnia books. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was extremely well balanced in terms of chronology as well as in terms of perspective (Jacobs, though thoroughly respectful to Lewis, does not sugar coat or even wholesale believe some "well known" ideas ab I love when biographies encompass the subject's entire life, and this book does this exceedingly well. I was a little apprehensive to read it based on the title, thinking it might only focus on Lewis as the author of the Narnia books. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was extremely well balanced in terms of chronology as well as in terms of perspective (Jacobs, though thoroughly respectful to Lewis, does not sugar coat or even wholesale believe some "well known" ideas about Lewis' life). High points: This book is very conversational as opposed to dense. Jacobs is diligent to place events of Lewis' life in historical context, which almost makes this a "history book" (a plus as far as I'm concerned). Fans of Lewis' friends (Tolkien, MacDonald, R. Lancelyn Green, etc.) will be delighted how often they turn up in these pages. In short, this was a fantastic biography. I'm currently reading some of Lewis' non Narnia books for the first time, and pairing this biography with them as given them more context and given me more understanding.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jackson

    What more is there to be said about Lewis? It seems that every new finding or spoken opinion is a pouring out of an Ozarka water bottle into the infinity of the Atlantic Ocean. It mingles and then disappears among the collective tide. Jacobs succeeds in keeping Lewis distanced and mysterious at the right times. And at others, he is the bellowing, brash Irishman with all too much to say and not enough time to say it. There are countless details to enjoy about Jacobs' approach to Lewis' life. None What more is there to be said about Lewis? It seems that every new finding or spoken opinion is a pouring out of an Ozarka water bottle into the infinity of the Atlantic Ocean. It mingles and then disappears among the collective tide. Jacobs succeeds in keeping Lewis distanced and mysterious at the right times. And at others, he is the bellowing, brash Irishman with all too much to say and not enough time to say it. There are countless details to enjoy about Jacobs' approach to Lewis' life. None more fulfilling than the sheer amount of quotations from Lewis' works. The common thread throughout the narrative remains this - that Lewis enjoyed friendship (discussion of nonsense, poetry, theology, metaphysics over beer, tea, and pipes) above all argument and dialectic. May the same be said of the greatest writers today.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    A wonderful exploration of the life and thought of C.S. Lewis. My favorite chapters were Jacob's analysis of the major themes in Lewis's writing, whether in Narnia, the Space Trilogy, or his apologetic works. Jacobs skillfully weaves them together, showing how works of diverse genre and purpose could, at the same time, capture a unified vision of Christianity as plausible at a time when many in England found it increasingly implausible. I particularly loved Jacob's argument at the end that what A wonderful exploration of the life and thought of C.S. Lewis. My favorite chapters were Jacob's analysis of the major themes in Lewis's writing, whether in Narnia, the Space Trilogy, or his apologetic works. Jacobs skillfully weaves them together, showing how works of diverse genre and purpose could, at the same time, capture a unified vision of Christianity as plausible at a time when many in England found it increasingly implausible. I particularly loved Jacob's argument at the end that what Lewis offers is less proofs for Christianity than a vision of Christianity that is not only plausible, but desirable.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kat Coffin

    I'm pretty picky about Lewis biographies, but Jacobs does a fine job. I mainly picked this up due to his decent critiques of Lewis and gender (along with his defense of Susan Pevensie), but I enjoyed the meat of the book as well. Very much worth the read. I'm pretty picky about Lewis biographies, but Jacobs does a fine job. I mainly picked this up due to his decent critiques of Lewis and gender (along with his defense of Susan Pevensie), but I enjoyed the meat of the book as well. Very much worth the read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mallory

    A scholarly, well-written, if at times a bit deep biography on Lewis' life. I loved learning about his struggles with accepting Christianity; I had always assumed he'd been a lifer, based on his works. Favorite quotes: "The world appears to be full of people who believe that if they did not have a particular experience in a particular context, no one else could have either." "Nothing, I suspect, is more astonishing in any man's life than the discovery that there exist people very, very like hims A scholarly, well-written, if at times a bit deep biography on Lewis' life. I loved learning about his struggles with accepting Christianity; I had always assumed he'd been a lifer, based on his works. Favorite quotes: "The world appears to be full of people who believe that if they did not have a particular experience in a particular context, no one else could have either." "Nothing, I suspect, is more astonishing in any man's life than the discovery that there exist people very, very like himself." - C.S. Lewis "No one gets angry at forgotten books or their forgotten writers."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul Dubuc

    This is a very good biography of C. S. Lewis. Jacobs is a skillful writer and has a great knack for weaving Lewis' own writing and ideas into the events of his life. He brings out the greatness of Lewis' mind and character without hiding his flaws or failing to point out what he thinks are some of his half-baked or somewhat parochial ideas. The thorough research that has evidently gone into writing this book is skillfully crafted into a fascinating narrative; very enjoyable reading. Jacobs convi This is a very good biography of C. S. Lewis. Jacobs is a skillful writer and has a great knack for weaving Lewis' own writing and ideas into the events of his life. He brings out the greatness of Lewis' mind and character without hiding his flaws or failing to point out what he thinks are some of his half-baked or somewhat parochial ideas. The thorough research that has evidently gone into writing this book is skillfully crafted into a fascinating narrative; very enjoyable reading. Jacobs convincingly debunks the more bizarre speculations of A. N. Wilson's unfriendly biography (particularly those surrounding his debate with Elizabeth Anscombe--see also Victor Reppert's essay in ch. 21 of Bassham and Walls' book, "The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy" for more on this.) and fills in many gaps that other biographers have left. If you only have time to read one story of Lewis' life this is a good one. I highly recommend it. But you should make time to read two. George Sayer's biography, written from the perspective of a personal friend is a good companion to this one. You'll find some good stories in there that Jacobs leaves out. Sayer gives a better picture of Lewis' relationship with Joy Davidman, for example. Those who fault Jacobs for trying too hard to psychoanalyze Lewis have a good point. But his tone is speculative in these parts, not conclusive, cautioning readers to draw their own conclusions rather than put too much weight on his. One thing Jacobs helps to do is balance the view that many have of Lewis as a rationalist with his more passionate side. Lewis highly valued reason and logic in making sense of his beliefs and his "mere Christianity" but passion and imagination also seem to have played an important and necessary part in realizing those beliefs for his own life and in living them out.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is an excellent biography of C.S. Lewis, the creator of Narnia. Jacobs's biography is dense but well written: I know much more about Lewis, and the factors in Lewis's life that impacted his imagination, than I did before. Jack Lewis was a fascinating and flawed man who--along with his friend J.R.R. Tolkien--would have been happier in a different age than the one they found themselves in (a reality I share with both of them!) The Narnian is comprehensive, well researched, and quite satisfyin This is an excellent biography of C.S. Lewis, the creator of Narnia. Jacobs's biography is dense but well written: I know much more about Lewis, and the factors in Lewis's life that impacted his imagination, than I did before. Jack Lewis was a fascinating and flawed man who--along with his friend J.R.R. Tolkien--would have been happier in a different age than the one they found themselves in (a reality I share with both of them!) The Narnian is comprehensive, well researched, and quite satisfying. I have always loved Tolkien's fiction more than Lewis's, but Lewis led a more interesting and varied life. Much of this book focuses on Lewis's spiritual life, and how his conversion to Christianity changed his world completely. He gave almost all of his money away to charity, and--for thirty years--took care of the mother and sister of an army friend simply because he said he would. He responded to each and every letter he received from both fans and critics (quite literally thousands of letters). His radio broadcasts during World War II helped the beleaguered and bombed citizens of England keep up their spirits and retain their hope. Lewis was a good man. I hope that, if there is an afterlife, he and Tolkien are sitting around a warm fire,drinking a few pints, smoking their pipes, and laughing at bad jokes made in Old Norse. Rest in Peace, Narnian.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Amazon Review: Just in time for the major motion picture Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from Disney, comes this biography of the man who dreamed up the land and tales of Narnia. Jacobs, a Wheaton College literature professor, does so not in typical chronological style, but according to themes important in Lewis's life. So, in the chapter entitled "red beef and strong beer" (a Lewis quote about what was satisfying and nourishing to him), we encounter the strong male me Amazon Review: Just in time for the major motion picture Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from Disney, comes this biography of the man who dreamed up the land and tales of Narnia. Jacobs, a Wheaton College literature professor, does so not in typical chronological style, but according to themes important in Lewis's life. So, in the chapter entitled "red beef and strong beer" (a Lewis quote about what was satisfying and nourishing to him), we encounter the strong male mentors from his young adult years. Jacobs is obviously taken with early 20th-century English literature and history, and it shows in his writing, which is accessible and unobtrusively documented. However, the thematic organization could leave some readers a tad confused as he skips back and forth in time. Also, to fully appreciate this book, one needs to have read not just the Narnia series but Lewis's writings on Christian apologetics, as Jacobs is intent on making connections between the two genres. Amidst a sea of entry-level Lewis portraits being published this fall, this more substantive book is for hard-core Lewis lovers eager to soak up historical minutiae and savor salient Lewis quotes for years to come.

  22. 5 out of 5

    RE de Leon

    There's been a lot written about the life of CS Lewis. So much so that wonders if perhaps we already have too much of such literature. Alan Jacobs, however, has managed to write a book on the life and works of CS Lewis that is fresh and worth reading, even if you're already familiar with Lewis. How? He wrote an almost-biography. Instead of covering the life of Jack Lewis chronologically from birth to death as most books do, Jacobs has attempted to write a biography of Lewis' imagination, paying There's been a lot written about the life of CS Lewis. So much so that wonders if perhaps we already have too much of such literature. Alan Jacobs, however, has managed to write a book on the life and works of CS Lewis that is fresh and worth reading, even if you're already familiar with Lewis. How? He wrote an almost-biography. Instead of covering the life of Jack Lewis chronologically from birth to death as most books do, Jacobs has attempted to write a biography of Lewis' imagination, paying little attention to aspects of Lewis' life that are of purely biographical interest, and focusing on those aspects that (at least in Jacobs' interpretation) contributed to his writing. The title is accurate: this is a biography of Lewis the Narnian, not Lewis the man, per se. And as I said, it makes for engaging reading even for someone who's already read a lot of Lewisiana. RE de Leon Ago, La Union, Philippines 11:10 PM January 4, 2010

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jason Farley

    I enjoyed this thoroughly. It was well written. Sympathetic without being hagiographical and it dug deeply into Lewis' thought without the nonsense of "psychological interpretation." All and all a very well researched and helpful book. I enjoyed this thoroughly. It was well written. Sympathetic without being hagiographical and it dug deeply into Lewis' thought without the nonsense of "psychological interpretation." All and all a very well researched and helpful book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    G.M. Burrow

    The detail and beauty of Jacobs' exploration is nothing short of astonishing. The detail and beauty of Jacobs' exploration is nothing short of astonishing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This author did an enormous amount of research on the life and times of C S Lewis. Why am I surprised that an author whose books I love to read was a person of many parts? If any book can give a solid idea how it was to know or live with Mr Lewis, this is the one. Being a student in one of his classes would be a rare privilege. However, the book being long, and my time to read being limited, I have had to give it up for now. I will try hard to get back to it in the future and finish it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eleazar Diaz

    C. S. Lewis, a man that managed to bring his love for fairy tales and his love for Jesus together into one world... Narnia. Where the great lion Aslan “came bounding into it” and “pulled the whole story together”. A man whose sehnsucht (longing) for joy lasted a lifetime and yet had but brief visitations of it. No wonder he would conclude that "Joy is the serius bussines of haven" may he be getting lots of it now. I have been deeply touched by this man's life and imagination! C. S. Lewis, a man that managed to bring his love for fairy tales and his love for Jesus together into one world... Narnia. Where the great lion Aslan “came bounding into it” and “pulled the whole story together”. A man whose sehnsucht (longing) for joy lasted a lifetime and yet had but brief visitations of it. No wonder he would conclude that "Joy is the serius bussines of haven" may he be getting lots of it now. I have been deeply touched by this man's life and imagination!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cassie

    So much background information that really helped me understand where Lewis was writing from, both in a historic and personal setting. I found so many interesting things about him, and I'm looking forward to reading his autobiography Surprised by Joy next. So much background information that really helped me understand where Lewis was writing from, both in a historic and personal setting. I found so many interesting things about him, and I'm looking forward to reading his autobiography Surprised by Joy next.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erin Neville

    This was difficult to read; the prose was dense and I had to read it much more slowly than I am accustomed to reading. But it was so, so worth it. I have new appreciation for the life and work of CS Lewis. He was a remarkable man with great insight.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    For how much I love Narnia...I have never in my life been so bored by a biography. Jacobs went off on so many long discussions of obscure literature, and CS Lewis had really no super interesting stories of his own life beyond those which I had already known from reading Surprised by Joy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elliot Kuo

    This biography fully matches the intellectual prowess of the man it details. Jacobs opens a window into, not only the life, but the mind and imagination of C. S. Lewis. Quality non-fiction.

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