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Diana Maryon

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Yours, Jack: The Inspirational Letters of C. S. Lewis
Yours, Jack: The Inspirational Letters of C. S. Lewis
by C. S. Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite Collection, 21 May 2014
I'd greatly prefer it if I could assign five stars to the Lewis part of this book, which I have just received as a gift, but something more like three to the presentation. The Lewis content, much of it long familiar from the old Letters of C.S. Lewis compiled by his brother W.H Lewis and from Letters to an American Lady, is the usual vintage stuff. The quality of transcription, the Greek element and the general copy-editing leaves very much to be desired. I noted particularly a wrong Gospel reference, a jarring pair of slips in the text of the last and justly famous paragraph of ch. 14 in Surprised by Joy [p. 9], and an invented title, Ransom to Venus, created by wrong italicization on p. 89; but there are quite a few places where I am quite certain that we are not reading Lewis's own words but something else.

What I am in no position to determine is whether some or all of this originates with the big three-volume set from which this otherwise attractive book is excerpted, or is more like dust picked up along the way. It is sadly true that literacy of the kind required for doing a faultless job on such material is at a premium today.

C. S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet
C. S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet
by Alister McGrath
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not the best, 22 Feb 2014
I belong to a rare breed: I was in Cambridge in the late 1950s and early ’60s, and privileged to correspond with Lewis, hear him lecture, meet him in person and indeed spend a whole (academic) evening with him as his wife was dying. All of that is told in my spiritual autobiography O Love How Deep published just over two years ago. This new ‘Life’ is written by someone who experienced none of these things. It does therefore strike me as ‘thin’ and bloodless emotionally compared with some earlier efforts. While it is mercifully more or less free of amateur psychoanalysis, as of falsehoods about how many undergraduate degrees Lewis earned reading Classical Mods., Greats and the English School (he no more had multiple degrees than I had after four Parts of the Tripos), the approach is on the cold side. I find it for instance perfectly natural that he chose not to dwell on the horrors of First World War trench-warfare after it was over, and that his memory of the date of his conversion to theism was ‘out’ by a calendar year. Yes, Joy Davidman was acquisitive, as was to be expected in a Jewish lady from the Bronx, and yes, she did decide to marry Lewis before he had even heard of her; but it was still a perfect love-match in the end, and made each of them deeply happy until she died.

This book will work well for those who know several of the earlier biographical studies. It includes some genuinely new and significant information, supplementing and correcting at certain points. The illustrations are a pleasant touch. It is still not something which does the trick as a free-standing contribution, in other words it should not be the first or only such study that one reads.

Worth the Wait: 1 (Waltham Academy)
Worth the Wait: 1 (Waltham Academy)
by Laura Jackson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.07

5.0 out of 5 stars Charming YA Novel, 4 Feb 2014
I must confess, as a 75-year-old British pre-WWII-baby, who went through rationing, the Blitz, terror of a Nazi invasion, post-war austerity, parental neglect, years of hard academic grind for high achievement, marriage (and only then sexual intercourse) on no money, more academic labour, emigration for employment, rented dwellings, childbirth with an imperfect physique, house-poverty and career uncertainty, reaching a modicum of leisure and financial security only in my 50s, I really did not expect to like this book – or the people in it – so much. I’d have expected to find it wholly unsympathetic, if I hadn’t myself as an immature 19-year-old contracted a foolish premature engagement, which if any of us had had any money in the 1950s might have turned into a disastrous marriage that both of us would have felt obliged as Christians to maintain.

This is in fact a very delightful coming-of-age story, fast-paced, natural and racy in style. The lingo is mostly teenage slang, the cultural context is bang up-to-date, with texting and pop-songs. Yes, the young people originate in suburban Middle America complete with small evangelical churches and sports-fetishism. Yes, there may be more than a dash of the autobiographical (or if the author inhabits a larger universe it is not apparent from the writing). Yes, the main characters have too much money, freedom and leisure for the good of their souls: they have cars at 16, and partly because those are such convenient bedrooms on wheels, unless they’re careful, sexual intercourse almost as early, they snack all the time, are constantly entertained, work rather sporadically in academically undemanding ways, eat in expensive restaurants, and look forward after ‘College’ to early marriage with salaries and houses. But I still found myself wanting to know what happened to them.

Ellie the heroine and her development is the core of the plot. We are allowed to see into her soul. Between her adoration of her boyfriend Dylan and her inherited piety she is not at the start much of a personality in her own right. There’s this to be said for her sexual abstinence, it’s quite as much rooted in fear of sin as of pregnancy (there’s no explanation of why there are no unplanned or out-of-wedlock pregnancies in this story). She starts out certain of much, both of her faith and of the love of her deeply Christian parents, but beginning to doubt the fidelity and reliability of the handsome Dylan, who has been away all summer and seems to be distancing himself from her. Everyone assumes that they will marry after a brief stint in post-secondary education. After all, they’ve been a couple ever since they were very small, and she at least has never been in love with anyone else. She has never doubted that her vocation is simple, and that it is simply to marry him. Physically speaking things have already gone, not all the way, but quite far enough for anyone’s peace of mind. But her life seems mapped out before her, her parents and his are all approval, and only doubts about Dylan’s love and her mother’s sudden illness disturb the picture.

Are the standards that she has imbibed and striven to honour enough? Why if God loves her can things go as badly wrong as they do? Ellie has never really faced that between legalism and licence lies a third or New Testament way, and that this way can be trod only in the power of the Holy Spirit Whom she knows only at second-hand. The best parts of the narrative are her prayers, as she grows to be a Christian unsupported by others’ faith and example, and centred on Christ not on some other human being. So this is much more than a morality tale, though it is that. Ellie makes an uphill climb not absolutely unlike that of Francis, growing out of an unadmitted self-love to a genuine love for God and care for neighbours especially the less fortunate (actualised in a visit to an orphanage outside her comfortable milieu down south in Latin America). If you like, she discovers for herself the idea of vocation so often missing in modern Christian thinking. She comes to understand that life, and Christian life, is not a matter of ease and pleasure, but of work and service; if joy and happiness are granted along with those, well and good, and if not, it’s still good. She becomes ‘worth the wait’ for someone who really wants to be her husband. The only assumption which goes unchallenged in the narrative is that her vocation will definitely include an eventual marriage. That’s just a little disappointing to me, in spite of my conviction that there are few things in this world more significant than matrimony.

Sinful abuse of the anovulant pill starting decades ago caused an earthquake so violent that we in the Western world are still all gasping, spluttering and struggling in the ensuing tsunami. We live in a cold, hard world, in which many people must find out in painful ways that idolatry of self always resolves itself into worship of the old gods, chiefly Aphrodite and Bacchus, and that these are savagely cruel deities. Young females especially are often the walking wounded in our society. I’d have no hesitation putting this story into the hands of most young people of either sex, and believe that it may prove a powerful lever to open the mind to Jesus in many cases. Yes, it is culture-bound, but the more vividly immediate for that. My only reservation? I just hope that no potential reader will be put off by envy of the security in the love of intact and deeply Christian parents which is the rule in this book. That security is emphatically NOT the rule for so many, who will have to decide whether they will take the lifeline that’s available, and that will enable them to climb out of self-pity and self-concern, and perhaps by grace make it all up to their own children.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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