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C. S. Lewis: A Biography [Paperback]

A. N. Wilson
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
Price: 10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Nov 2005

This acclaimed biography charts the progress of the brilliant, prolific writer, C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis was a deeply complex man, capable of inspiring both great devotion and great hostility. This acclaimed biography charts the progress of the clever child from the ‘Little End Room’ of his Ulster childhood and adult life, exploring Lewis’s unwilling conversion to Christianity, the genesis of his writing, and the web of his relationships.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 2Rev Ed edition (7 Nov 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007202717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007202713
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 327,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

A.N. Wilson was born in 1950 and educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he holds a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism. He is an award-winning biographer and a celebrated novelist, winning prizes for much of his work. He lives in North London.

Product Description


‘The more biography he writes, the better he gets – his life of C. S. Lewis is his best yet. It’s a vivacious and compassionate book. Wilson’s range of interests – religious, literary, human-gossipy and Oxfordian – make him an ideal match for the subject.’ Andrew Motion, Observer

‘Passionate, perspicacious, funny and inevitably partisan.’ Selina Hastings, Telegraph

‘Wilson’s biography is admirable, probably the best imaginable … Mr Wilson is a brilliant biographer.’ Anthony Burgess, Independent

‘It seems fitting that A. N. Wilson should now have written the definitive biography of Lewis, and it is a superb job.’ John Bayley, Guardian

From the Back Cover

“The more biography he writes, the better he gets – this life of C.S. Lewis is his best yet. It’s a vivacious and compassionate book. Wilson’s range of interests – religious, literary, human-gossipy and Oxfordian – make him an ideal match for the subject.”

“Passionate, perspicacious, funny and inevitably partisan”

“This biography is nothing short of intoxicating. It is wonderfully lucid on every level. Above all it is Lewis’s astonishing fluency which is so captivating. Whether he is describing the method of an Oxford tutorial or defending the humdrum suburban life, he makes you 'see' and tells a rattling good story.”
BRIAN MASTERS, 'Evening Standard'

“Lean and lively … he cuts through all the pious cackle to the heart of the matter.”
ANTHONY CURTIS, 'Financial Times'

“Wilson brings alive Lewis the man, in all his beery, blustery complexity. This is a book which renders previous biographies largely obsolete.”
NEIL PHILIP, 'Times Educational Supplement'

“It seems fitting that A.N. Wilson should now have written the definitive biography of Lewis, and it is a superb job.”
JOHN BAYLEY, 'Guardian'

“Wilson’s biography is admirable, probably the best imaginable … MR Wilson is a brilliant biographer.”
ANTHONY BURGESS, 'Independent'

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
Clive Staples Lewis was born on 29 November 1898 in the city of Belfast. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Good Even for Irony 11 Sep 2001
There is great, though, as it turns out, pointless, irony in the fact that the litterateur A. N. Wilson penned this life of a famous Christian apologist while he was in the process of giving up his own Christian faith. One might anticipate from such a juxtaposition some unusual insight into Lewis' (in this case unsuccessful) methods of argumentation. Alas, nothing of the sort occurs. This is simply another Lewis biography, following the familiar outline laid down by Lewis' own "Surprised by Joy" and adding very little, save for catty psychological guesswork, that has not appeared in earlier productions of the prolific Lewis "industry".
The book's great sensation is the assertion that the young Lewis, at around age 20, had an affair with Mrs. Jane Moore, the woman whom he "adopted" as a mother figure for the rest of his life. The theory, borrowed without acknowledgement from the eccentric American Lewis scholar Kathryn Lindskoog (whom Wilson repays with unfair derision), lacks both plausibility and evidence. Lewis had lost his mother at a young age and had chafed under his father's well-meant but wrong-headed tutelage. Mrs. Moore's son, for a while Lewis' closest friend, had died in the Great War. That the two should have formed a substitute family is not at all surprising. Wilson offers no grounds for supposing that the relationship was sexual. Instead, he offers "evidence" of this sort: Lewis' diaries use the Greek letter delta (our "D") as shorthand for Mrs. Moore. Of the many Greek words and names beginning with that letter, he singles out "Diotimia", from whom the Socrates of Plato's "Symposium" is supposed to have learned his theories about eros.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Humbling of CS Lewis 20 Feb 2013
By Lex
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
CS Lewis and John Betjeman
When I picked up A.N. Wilson’s highly readable C.S. Lewis – A Biography I thought Lewis might get a little rough treatment. That’s because I’d already seen how Wilson dealt with him in his biography of John Betjeman.

It’s true that Lewis and Betjeman couldn’t stand each other, but it wasn’t entirely Lewis’s fault. Lewis, a young man, had become a Tutor of English at Magdalen College, Oxford. Betjeman was one of his very first students.

To Betjeman Lewis seemed overly serious, unimaginative and hard. To Lewis Betjeman appeared affected, unintelligent and lazy, regularly failing to hand in essays on time. In fact, on one occasion Lewis was pleasantly surprised by Betjeman submitting a decent essay and looked forward to the tutorial. He later wrote in his diary, ‘I soon discovered [the essay] to be a pure fake, for he knew nothing about the work when we began to talk. I wish I could get rid of the idle prig.’[i]

He did eventually, and possibly unnecessarily. Betjeman never forgave him and, in letters written years later, referred to Lewis as ‘my old enemy’.

So I expected Wilson to write a fairly tough biography. Warning: Bubble bursting activity ahead.

Lewis in a nut shell
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast on November 29, 1898 and died on November 22, 1963. Although incredibly bright, he hated school, and was moved from place to place until his father finally agreed to have him privately tutored. After gaining a triple first at Oxford he became Tutor of English Literature and Language at Magdalen, Oxford, a position he held for nearly 30 years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oops! 28 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This biography is to be treated with caution. I lost interest (or assurance) by p.26 when Wilson suggests that CSL was taught English by McNeill at Campbell College. This is a gross insult to his actual English teacher, Lewis Alden, who received praise for his teaching from four (including CSL) eminent university professors. McNeill, whom Wilson mentions, taught Mathematics - and had been dead three years before CSL arrived at Campbell!!!
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars THE DEVIL�S ADVOCATE RIDES OUT 1 Aug 2000
By Michael JR Jose VINE VOICE
A. N. Wilson, who never met Lewis, wants to save him from sainthood, and feels that previous biographers have been too adulatory. I suspect he also feels that Lewis is only properly understood by fellow literati. He wants to balance things up, and I happily admit that there is merit in this aim. Unfortunately, the merit is far outweighed by the demerits of his method and the factual inaccuracy of this book. I am strongly reminded of the position in which John Betjeman's biographer, Bevis Hillier found himself. He tells us that he decided to avoid producing a 'critical biography', which is an illegitimate art-form, as it 'yokes together historical narrative and literary criticism'. This is Wilson's error, and he compounds it with his own repetitious and subjective brand of psychoanalysis. It is as if he cannot restrict himself to any one role, or even a coherent set of roles. He wants to be an honest broker, iconoclast, Devil's Advocate, psychoanalyst, literary critic, and historian by turns. He fails.
To me it seems that Wilson's best remarks are made when he is in literary-critical mode. I can actually recognise Lewis's book 'The Allegory of Love' from the description given. However, Wilson's fatal habit cannot help but ruin it by the addition of a florid Freudian excursus at the end. Against this slight virtue, the Lewis I know from his autobiography, diaries, and other biographies appears as a caricature.
George Sayer wrote a biography of Lewis entitled 'Jack': he was a pupil of Lewis, and a good friend. As this friendship lasted twenty-nine years, he was a hundred times more qualified than Wilson to write a biography. Sayer was so stung by the unfairness of Wilson's book that he responded with an updated introduction to his own biography.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The biographer obviously had a high regard for Lewis as a person
Published 26 days ago by Gillian
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book
I bought this as a present for 93 year old friend who found it very interesting ,he bought a copy to give as a present too.
Published 7 months ago by jugriff
2.0 out of 5 stars Vivid and compelling portrait of a great man: infuriatingly bad kindle...
This would be a five star review. AN Wilson brings C.S Lewis back down to earth when so many are desperate to see him as a saintly celibate figure and gives a compelling account of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Fairfax
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy, but beware!
Very readable, and often insightful, like everything that Wilson does. But (also like everything he does) gets a good many facts wrong. Enjoy, but beware!
Published 8 months ago by ian
5.0 out of 5 stars C. S. Lewis's fascinating life mediated by the wit of A. N. Wilson
It has been almost fifty years since C. S. Lewis's untimely death, but interest in the great Christian writer keeps on growing and growing. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Nat Whilk
5.0 out of 5 stars CS Lewis - a life examined
CS Lewis is famous for many endeavours - his christian writing, his lectures, the Narnia series and his radio broadcasts. In blocks of four or five years from 1898 until 1963, A.N. Read more
Published on 1 Sep 2011 by RR Waller
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, Human, Respectful and Educational
As someone captivated, and influenced, by CSL's writings, from Narnia in childhood - and still reading them 30 years later :) - thru Screwtape, the SciFi trilogy, The Great Divorce... Read more
Published on 24 Dec 2010 by UKLurker
5.0 out of 5 stars C.S.Lewis
Not having met Lewis I'll never know which author is more right w/o studying all C.S.Lewis' writings, which I don't see myself doing but what A.N. Wilson sure seems to have done. Read more
Published on 18 Dec 2008 by Mrs. R. Endicott
5.0 out of 5 stars C.S.Lewis the man rather than Lewis the icon
I found this book un-put-downable, unlike other reviewers here I have not read any other biographies of C.S. Read more
Published on 31 July 2007 by ISCA
2.0 out of 5 stars Spiteful and mean spirited, but good on the lit crit.
This book deserves two stars for its excellent sections which concern CS Lewis as a literary critic. Read more
Published on 6 Jan 2007 by editor-theorist
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