C. S. Lewis - A Life

  • by Alister E. McGrath
  • Narrated by Robin Sachs
  • 13 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In honor of the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis' death, celebrated Oxford don Dr. Alister McGrath presents us with a compelling and definitive portrait of the life of C. S. Lewis, the author of the well-known Narnia series. For more than half a century, C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series has captured the imaginations of millions. In C. S. Lewis - A Life, Dr. Alister McGrath recounts the unlikely path of this Oxford don, who spent his days teaching English literature to the brightest students in the world and his spare time writing a best-selling fantasy series for children.
Dr. McGrath uses his extensive research and thorough examination in chronological order of Lewis’ correspondence and archival materials to present a new picture of Lewis’ life. This definitive biography paints a portrait of an eccentric thinker who became a compelling, though reluctant, prophet for our times. You won’t want to miss this fascinating portrayal of a creative genius who inspired generations.

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Customer Reviews

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Accessible, informative, but not too critical!

While prof. Alister E. McGrath - the writer of ‘The twilight of Atheism’ and ‘The Dawkins Delusion’ - didn’t know C.S. Lewis personally, this biography seems to be that of an admirer… maybe even a disciple. Being himself a well-known Christian apologist, it can be expected that McGrath read with a religious eye when he did his research for this biography. He has read through all the correspondence of Lewis and some of his contemporaries in chronological order. Only thereafter did he engage with secondary literature. Hence you should not be surprised that this book focus more on Lewis’ thought life and its development than on dates, numbers and solid historical facts.

That said, the biography is in no way ignoring facts. It is carefully written, though at times cursive. McGrath thinks it is highly significant that he could determine that the traditional date set for Lewis conversion to Christianity (1929) is wrong. It happened in 1930.

I found this book valuable as it helped me to gain an understanding of who C.S. Lewis was as well as his importance. Yet, I must confess I am an outsider. I didn’t grow up with Lewis, Narnia or the Screwtape Letters as might be the case in many English and American households. English is not my mother tongue. Only as an adult I became aware of his work. I therefore suspect that though McGrath paints a good picture with broad brush strokes of Lewis’ life, then colours it with his world of thought, a hard-core Lewis fan might want a bit more out of this biography. That said, McGrath writes very clear and is easy to follow.

He comes over very sympathetic towards C.S. Lewis. His formulations around possible scandal is very considerate and Lewis seem to get of light when it comes to value judgements about his life. Rhetorical questions leaving certain judgements with the reader/ listener abounds especially at the beginning of the book.

The book is very accessible. Anybody that has listened to it will have a better understanding of who C.S. Lewis was and will be able to appreciate his contribution to uplifting and directing the collective mind of the British nation during the Second World War and how his work has stood the test of time (even though some of it being dated). McGrath also appreciates Lewis’ Irish roots more than seems to have been done in the past (probably because he himself is Irish). Yet the biography’s strength lies in McGrath’s focus. I found that McGrath’s illumination of Lewis’ apologetic arguments very satisfactory. His extensive coverage of Narnia and especially the lion, Azlan, also should be commended. I didn’t knew that Lewis wrote science fiction!

The deep baritone voice of Robert Sachs surprised me. When I started listening to the biography, I couldn’t make up my mind if it fitted or not. He definitely brings ‘something’ different to the listening experience, but it is for the listener to decide if it is good or bad. Sachs’ reading is superb.

I enjoyed the ear candy at the end of the audiobook - hearing C.S. Lewis’ own Oxford accented voice, was quite satisfying. It gives the audiobook an edge over the printed copy (… which might have some photos included).

On a more technical level, I downloaded the biography in two parts. There is an overlap of more or less 20 minutes between the last part of the first audio file and the first part of the second audio file. I am not sure if this is a mistake of Oasis audio or just a download glitch at Audible.

While listening ‘C.S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet’ I couldn’t help wondering how much Alister E. McGrath was writing about himself. As someone who is able to bring a lot of facts together through identifying overarching themes, McGrath seems to have identified themes that resonates well with what is known about himself. The parallels between Lewis’ life and his own are striking. One gets the feeling that he might be following the latter’s example in his own career.

This biography is well-written, easily accessible, has just enough historical data not to overwhelm the listener, but deals more with the development of Lewis’ apologetic mind. It is splendidly presented and like most of Oasis’ audio books, it starts off with an interview with the author. A superb listening pleasure!
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- Jacobus

Awakening my curiosity and desire to read more!

Alister McGrath paints a picture of the life of C. S. Lewis that ignites my curiosity and allows me to appreciate the writings of Lewis even more! I found that I was making excuses to do things that allowed me to finish this book over the last three days. I have loved Lewis's writings for years, but have never known the back story which makes me think I will have to re-read Lewis and once again enjoy the expansion of my logic, desire, curiosity, and imagination. McGrath, a well known theologian and academic, looks in depth at all available C. S. Lewis books, journals, letters and what others who knew Lewis wrote and comes away with his own cohesive understanding of Lewis and his writings. He also frequently makes note of the historical context and things that were going on in England which shaped the course of Lewis' life. Lewis' complicated relationship with his father (in which he at times deceived him), his conversion from Atheism to Christianity, his unexpected falling in love with a dying woman who seems to have orchestrated meeting Lewis and their subsequent common law marriage are documented with clarity and precision. Also each book that Lewis wrote is placed in the context of Lewis' journey through life. I think Lewis is able to articulate so clearly the human experience because he was: so honest with himself, a genius, and came to faith later in life. Just like someone who learns how to do something innately hard for them, later in life, will likely be a better teacher, Lewis learns about humility in the context of being a grown up self-focused man. In the context of his adult life, he learns to merge the critical analytical life which governs what he believes, with the inner workings of his powerful imagination which through the conquest of his desire culminates in finding the True Myth which all myths point at, namely Jesus Christ.
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- Pearl Glacier

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-17-2013
  • Publisher: Oasis Audio