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C. S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet Paperback – 11 Apr 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (11 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444745557
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444745559
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,313,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


To the question of whether the world really needs another biography of C. S. Lewis, McGrath's lucid and unsentimental portrait of the Christian champion responds with a resounding "yes." The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Lewis's death, and times have changed and evangelical sentiments have matured. McGrath offers a new and at times shocking look into the complicated life of this complex figure, in a deeply researched biography. The author takes us headlong into the heart of a Lewis we've known little about: his unconventional affair with Mrs. Jane Moore; his hostile and deceptive relationship with his father; his curiosity about the sensuality of cruelty. McGrath navigates the reader through these messy themes, ultimately landing us onto the solid ground of Lewis's postconversion legacy. He shows with skill, sympathy, dispassion, and engaging prose that Lewis, like the rest of us, did the best he could with the hand he was dealt. But he got over it, as must all those who would prefer a Lewis without shadows. (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

Many of us thought we knew most of what there was to know about C. S. Lewis. Alister McGrath's new biography makes use of archives and other material that clarify, deepen and further explain the many sides of one of Christianity's most remarkable apologists. This is a penetrating and illuminating study. (N. T. Wright)

Alister McGrath's new biography of C. S. Lewis is excellent. It's filled with information based on extensive scholarship but is nonetheless extremely readable. It not only devotes great attention to the formation and character of Lewis the man, it offers incisive and balanced analyses of all his main literary works. Lewis's impact on me was profound and lasting, and Dr McGrath clearly explains why so many believers and Christians leaders today would say the same thing. (Timothy Keller)

A welcome addition to the biographical literature on C. S. Lewis, which includes several valuable new perspectives. McGrath's book will gain a permanent position in Lewis scholarship for his brilliant and, to my mind, undeniable re-dating of Lewis's conversion to Theism. How we all missed this for so long is astonishing! (Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia)

Alister McGrath sheds new light on the incomparable C. S. Lewis. This is an important book. (Eric Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer)

This biography is the one Lewis's admirers - especially those who, like him, believe that books are to be read and enjoyed - should prefer to all others. (Booklist, starred review)

Book Description

Definitive new biography of C. S. Lewis, author of the ever-popular Narnia books

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are already three canonical full length biographies of C. S. Lewis, as well as many shorter accounts of the famous writer's life. This absorbing new book by the academic theologian the Reverend Alister McGrath wisely seeks to do something more ambitious than merely echoing the work of his predecessors.

Firstly, Alister uses the new resources now available to Lewis scholars - not least Father Walter Hooper's mammoth compendium of CSL's letters - to correct some misapprehensions in previous books, and also to bring some particular aspects of CSL into unprecedentedly sharp focus. Thus we learn that CSL came to his faith a year later than he himself reported in his memoir - CSL was never very good with numbers! - and we get an appreciably clearer picture of his military service, of the hostility that he elicited from some of his peers at Oxford University and of just how determinedly he was courted by the redoubtable Joy Davidman. (Joy emerges from these pages as a character very different from that played by Debra Winger in the biopic movie Shadowlands.)

Secondly, Alister avoids needlessly plodding along well-trodden biographical high roads in order to leave room for a meticulously detailed analysis of CSL's thought and influence. Narnia, for example, is discussed in considerable depth, and Alister tells us much about the ups and downs and ups of CSL's reputation in Christian circles in the United States. I can perhaps illustrate Alister's distinctive approach by observing that he devotes a mere nine lines to CSL's nursing of his dying father, but a page and three quarters to Michael Ward's thesis that the structure of the Narnian series was partly shaped by mediaeval astrology.
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Format: Paperback
In his Preface McGrath writes that this biography is based in the first instance on what Lewis himself has written, with the intention of making the development of his ideas the main concern of the book. Fortunately that has not precluded an excellent narrative of many other aspects of the life of this "eccentric genius": this is by no means a purely intellectual history.

Lewis, a voracious reader since early childhood, describes short mystical experiences at the age of about six - one triggered by reading Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin! But he lost his Christian faith by the age of 17.

There follow fine chapters about Lewis' service in the trenches, his cool relationship with his father, and his unusual one with Mrs Moore (mother figure - and probably more - to replace his own beloved mother who had died when Lewis was nine years old), his studies (Classics and English, winning Firsts in both) at Oxford, his eventual appointment at the age of 26 as a Fellow of Magdalen College to teach English Literature. He was making a name for himself as an academic, but during these years there was no significant development in his attitude to religion. His outlook was rationalistic and he had come to dismiss his childhood glimpses of the ineffable as meaningless.

And then, a third of the way through the book, comes Lewis' conversion. The stimulus for him was the reading of the great writers of the Middle Ages, whose imaginative sense of a unified and cosmic world order was so different from the vision of the essential meaninglessness that had been reinforced by the Great War.

His conversion began with a belief in God in 1930. That was still Theism. But by the autumn of 1931 he had come to accept Christianity.
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Format: Paperback
A human life is unable to be tidied into convenient little categories. Here we meet CS Lewis at his messy, brilliant and complicated best.
McGrath's account of Lewis offers much that is fresh and new. It captures him in his eccentricities, abilities, strengths and perplexities! Fifty years after his death there is meaning and helpfulness in this great new biography.

A communicant in the Church of England, Lewis was playfully orthodox but not specifically evangelical in theological or spiritual emphasis. His closest lifelong friends were a homosexual Unitarian, Greeves and a traditionalist Roman Catholic, Tolkien. His formation, thought-life and legacy were accompanied by many a tankard of beer and prolific smoking. So for some legalists, Lewis is regrettably considered a heretic.

His undeniable Christological apologetic and literary imagination rooted in humanity's struggles and brilliance, are wonderfully described here. The detail, drama, depth and discretion of Lewis' marriage to Joy Davidman are some of my many unexpectedly favourite parts of this work. Edgy perspectives about Irish nuns, alcohol consumption and unresolved thinking previously undeclared, all get airtime here. There is meaning, wisdom, beauty and much understanding made possible throughout. There is a wholeness, complexity and delight to the Lewis that we meet in this majestic work. Maverick, gutsy talent ooze from this title.

Whatever you may think of CS Lewis as a children's author or a scholar, his importance to contemporary Christianity is undeniable. The wisdom of Lewis is clear, his apologetics are searing and his fiction a powerful glimpse of another world.
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