Much better that I expected,
This review is from: The Lion's World - A journey into the heart of Narnia (Paperback)
I borrowed my wife's copy of 'The Lion's World' and probably would not have bought it myself. I am not a big fan of Rowan Williams and in fact wrote an essay 'The disappointing Rowan Williams' in my Kindle book 'Three men in a Hut and Other Essays' in which I wrote that '....he is said to speak 11 languages, what a pity that plain English isn't one of them.' My appraisal of the man was that he was thoughtful, caring and intelligent but had been promoted above his abilities and (based on my attempts to read 2 of his other books) wrote impenetrable prose. I say this to emphasise the fact that I think this book is brilliant.
'The Lion's World: a Journey into Narnia' is a theological appraisal of the Narnia stories, although a few of Lewis' other works (Hideous Strength, Surprised by Joy etc) are touched upon. It is more readable than anything else I have come across from Rowan Williams. The chapters are not about each of the 7 Narnia books but each looks at themes that run across the whole and consider the way that Christ (as Aslan) deals with each of us. Perhaps my favourite chapter was 'The silent gaze of truth' in which Narnian encounters between various characters and The Lion take place. For example, Lucy in 'Dawn Treader' when she messes with a book of spells and ends up at least potentially harming herself and others. Aslan puts her right in a way that in no way diminished the wrongness of her pride and folly but helps her see through it and to move on in the path of rightness. The encounter with Eustace as a dragon is examined as a metaphor for the sinner who cannot get clean and restored by his own efforts but needs divine help to (painfully)overcome the sin nature. The encounters with the traitor Edmund and the fool Diggory who has let the witch Jadis into Narnia are also dealt with sympathetically but without excusing or diminishing the guiltiness or harmful effects of sin.
Williams gently but firmly debunks critics of Lewis such as Philip Pullman, who in my view is vastly overrated for cultural reasons. He has criticisms of his own, largely to do with the cultural context of the books, but discusses the real spiritual insights in the Narnia books which, along with their sheer humanity and good writing, explain why so many adults go back to these books repeatedly. My wife and I have bought a new box set to replace the one we literally wore out over 30 years.
I could write more and may edit this review later but for now having just put the book down for the first (not last) time I want to wholeheartedly recommend this book to all friends of Narnia. Rowan Williams is back in my good books for what that's worth.