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C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien charles williams and Their Friends: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Their Friends Paperback – 2 Jan 2006
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‘A constantly enjoyable volume’ John Carey, Sunday Times
‘A triumph of skill and tact… not one dull or slack sentence’ Kingsley Amis, New Statesman
‘It must be technically very difficult to write a biography of more than one person at a time: it is still more difficult to capture the atmosphere of a group… Mr Carpenter has managed both things admirably’ Mary Warnock, Sunday Telegraph
Winner of the Somerset Maugham Award for Best BiographySee all Product description
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It begins with potted biographies of CS Lewis, and Charles Williams. Tolkien's life is alluded to throughout the book, but he doesn't get this level of attention, apparently because Carpenter wrote a more detailed biography of him. This is the one disappointment of the book.
We get to see Lewis in a different light. Less the dusty academic and more doing jobs around the house for the older woman he had a complex relationship with. We don't usually associate him with DIY.
For me, the potted biography of Williams was really informative. This Inkling is someone we all tend to know much less about. I am reading some of his "supernatural thrillers" and can't help feeling he's been unfairly forgotten.
The book then goes on to explain the Inkling meetings at the zenith of their activity, in Oxford in the 1940s. It even goes as far as to "reconstruct" a typical Inklings meeting - featuring reported conversations but fictionalised. This is very illuminating. This is how "Lord of the Rings", "All Hallow's Eve" and much of Lewis's output got developed.
Just one word of warning about the book itself - the print is very small and difficult on the eyes. Admittedly I read this book a little too late at night, but the print is still too small for very intense reading.
But on the whole, this is a fascinating read.
I found it a fascinating read and have only one or two quibbles. For example, Carpenter does not mention the Evacuees that Lewis and his brother hosted for several years during the Second World War and who provided at least one of the sparks that led on to the writing of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". Then on pp 216/7 Carpenter describes the meeting of the Socratic Club in 1948 when Elizabeth Anscombe severely and effectively criticised one chapter of Lewis' latest book of Christian apologetics "Miracles". Carpenter says that Lewis was deeply disturbed and wrote no further books of Christian apologetics for ten years. This is somewhat misleading; Lewis revised the offending chapter in the light of Anscombe's critique and the book was republished (and is still in print).
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