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C.S. Lewis: A Biography of Friendship

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An Oxford student of C.S. Lewis's said he found his new tutor interesting, and was told by J.R.R. Tolkien, 'Interesting? Yes, he's certainly that. You'll never get to the bottom of him.' You can learn a great deal about people by their friends and nowhere is this more true than in the case of C.S. Lewis, the remarkable academic, author, populariser of faith - and creator o An Oxford student of C.S. Lewis's said he found his new tutor interesting, and was told by J.R.R. Tolkien, 'Interesting? Yes, he's certainly that. You'll never get to the bottom of him.' You can learn a great deal about people by their friends and nowhere is this more true than in the case of C.S. Lewis, the remarkable academic, author, populariser of faith - and creator of Narnia. He lost his mother early in life, and became estranged from his father, much to his regret. Throughout his life, key relationships mattered deeply to him, from his early days in the north of Ireland and his schooldays in England, as still a teenager in the trenches of World War One, and then later in Oxford. The friendships he cultivated throughout his life proved to be vital, influencing his thoughts, his beliefs and his writings. What did Arthur Greeves, a life-long friend from his adolescence, bring to him? How did J.R.R. Tolkien, and the other members of the now famous Inklings, shape him? Why, in his early twenties, did he move in with a single mother twice his age, Janie Moore, and live with her for so many years until her death? And why did he choose to marry so late? What of the relationship with his alcoholic and gifted brother, who eventually joined his unusual household? In this sparkling new biography, which draws on material not previously published, Colin Duriez brings C.S. Lewis and his friendships to life.


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An Oxford student of C.S. Lewis's said he found his new tutor interesting, and was told by J.R.R. Tolkien, 'Interesting? Yes, he's certainly that. You'll never get to the bottom of him.' You can learn a great deal about people by their friends and nowhere is this more true than in the case of C.S. Lewis, the remarkable academic, author, populariser of faith - and creator o An Oxford student of C.S. Lewis's said he found his new tutor interesting, and was told by J.R.R. Tolkien, 'Interesting? Yes, he's certainly that. You'll never get to the bottom of him.' You can learn a great deal about people by their friends and nowhere is this more true than in the case of C.S. Lewis, the remarkable academic, author, populariser of faith - and creator of Narnia. He lost his mother early in life, and became estranged from his father, much to his regret. Throughout his life, key relationships mattered deeply to him, from his early days in the north of Ireland and his schooldays in England, as still a teenager in the trenches of World War One, and then later in Oxford. The friendships he cultivated throughout his life proved to be vital, influencing his thoughts, his beliefs and his writings. What did Arthur Greeves, a life-long friend from his adolescence, bring to him? How did J.R.R. Tolkien, and the other members of the now famous Inklings, shape him? Why, in his early twenties, did he move in with a single mother twice his age, Janie Moore, and live with her for so many years until her death? And why did he choose to marry so late? What of the relationship with his alcoholic and gifted brother, who eventually joined his unusual household? In this sparkling new biography, which draws on material not previously published, Colin Duriez brings C.S. Lewis and his friendships to life.

30 review for C.S. Lewis: A Biography of Friendship

  1. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    Oh, I am really torn about this biography. I originally picked this up because a) I was looking for a better biography of Lewis than the last one I read ... I don't remember the author but it was dreadful; and b) I was trying to find out whether Duriez' style of writing biography works for me. He seems to have written extensively on Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings, but he also seems to have a biography of Dorothy L. Sayers forthcoming. It is scheduled for publication in October and I was intrigu Oh, I am really torn about this biography. I originally picked this up because a) I was looking for a better biography of Lewis than the last one I read ... I don't remember the author but it was dreadful; and b) I was trying to find out whether Duriez' style of writing biography works for me. He seems to have written extensively on Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings, but he also seems to have a biography of Dorothy L. Sayers forthcoming. It is scheduled for publication in October and I was intrigued because I hope that he will use his Lewis/Tolkien/Inklings background to answer some of my questions about Sayers' interaction with the group and its members. The C.S. Lewis biography turned out to be surprisingly good in that Duriez seemed to include a lot of quotes from letters - especially, from correspondence between "Jack", his brother Warnie, and their father. This was fantastic and provided exactly what I was looking for in terms an insight into what they were like in relation to each other. Another aspect I really liked, was that he tried to present facts and not justify Lewis as some other biographers I have read. If I read a biography, it helps if the author is enthusiastic about his subject, but it is a deterrent if the biographer turns out to be a "fan-boy" or "fan-girl". Duriez clearly is enthralled with the Inklings, having written about them several times, but I believe he managed to keep that distance that is required between the biographer and his subject to write a credible biography. For the most part, Duriez also refrained from giving meaning or interpreting events in Lewis' life against his later work and faith. This is something I very much appreciate. However, there were instances where he did so and I found them jarring, even if there were only a few of them. Where I felt the book was lacking, was the way that Duriez mentioned some of Lewis' theories, but didn't go into any explanations. So, it felt like some parts of the book were really superficial. Of course, the book was not supposed to be an analysis of Lewis entire work but if concepts are important enough to mention them in this biography, then I expect to be given an explanation so I can understand why and how they are important with respect to the biography. I felt this was missing a lot. I also did not appreciate that with respect to Lewis' relationship with his wife, Duriez mentioned that she was a huge influence on his writing, but then withheld any examples or evidence to substantiate this comment. In fact, he the chapter on Joy really short and to my amazement merely referred the reader to William Nicholson's play Shadowlands. I'm a big fan of the play. I'm a big fan of the film which is also based on Nicholson's play. However, including a brief quote by Debra Winger - taken from an "endorsement" on the back cover of Don W. King's Out of my Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman - describing Joy as "keen spirit, mind, and wit" does not fill me with a lot of confidence about how Duriez handled his research, even if - all credit to him - he added an end note to even mention that the source here was a book jacket endorsement. Anyway, there are aspects I enjoyed immensely about this biography, and I would recommend it to anyone who has never read a biography of Lewis' before and wants to start somewhere. However, I would also advise caution: This book merely scratches the surface of Lewis' life and what it does contain about his work is negligible.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah

    I really debated on giving this three or four stars. It started out like a high school research paper- informative but not much heart behind it- but after the first two chapters or so the writing style improved as it got more detailed into the life and works of C. S. Lewis and how the Inklings were such an impact on his life. I quite enjoyed it all by the end. Overall a good read!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    Was there any chance I WOULDN'T love this book? No. It's always a delightful experience to read about the life of C.S. Lewis and the friends and books he loved. In that vein, this book provided me with many titles of other things to read and I ALWAYS appreciate that in a book! The only question I have is whether my sister has made a grave error in lending me this one. Will she ever see it again? ;) Was there any chance I WOULDN'T love this book? No. It's always a delightful experience to read about the life of C.S. Lewis and the friends and books he loved. In that vein, this book provided me with many titles of other things to read and I ALWAYS appreciate that in a book! The only question I have is whether my sister has made a grave error in lending me this one. Will she ever see it again? ;)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Annie Booker

    Wonderful book. Describes the details of his close friendships with people like JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and Owen Barfield and probably his most important relationships - with his brother Warnie and his wife, joy Davidman.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    Mr. Duriez was the gentleman who gave us a kind and informational tour at The Kilns outside of Oxford on 3 March, 2020. His scholarship is impeccable and his words generous and articulate. I very much enjoyed this biography in light of Lewis’ friendships and learned much that I didn’t know before (though that is probably due to my ignorance and lack of study). From Colin I learned— through both the tour and this text— that there is much in this world that is un-Googleable and there is also much Mr. Duriez was the gentleman who gave us a kind and informational tour at The Kilns outside of Oxford on 3 March, 2020. His scholarship is impeccable and his words generous and articulate. I very much enjoyed this biography in light of Lewis’ friendships and learned much that I didn’t know before (though that is probably due to my ignorance and lack of study). From Colin I learned— through both the tour and this text— that there is much in this world that is un-Googleable and there is also much to be said for studying source materials, whether that entails a visit to Ireland or to Warnie’s manuscripts at Wheaton’s library. I also learned that my impression of Lewis is through the eyes of Colin—what touched him in particular, or where the intersections of his interests and Lewis’ life met. I found this is something to be cherished and noticed across the many topics I find myself absorbing secondhand. It also was enough to encourage and challenge me to discern the topics I am interested in pursuing and absorbing firsthand in the years and days to come.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michal Čop

    Keďže kniha v podstate splnila to, čo mala- viac mi priblížila život C.S. Lewisa- môžem skonštatovať, že som s ňou spokojný. Na druhej strane, viem si predstaviť aj lepší životopis, i keď sa nedá povedať, že by bol tento zlý. Problémom bolo, že miestami kniha nebola veľmi čítavá. A to z toho dôvodu, že niektorým veciam sa autor venoval až príliš dopodrobna (ako napr. hľadaniu presného dátumu, kedy sa Lewis obrátil) a niekedy mi pripadala až príliš akademicky úzkostlivá, čo znižovalo čitateľský zá Keďže kniha v podstate splnila to, čo mala- viac mi priblížila život C.S. Lewisa- môžem skonštatovať, že som s ňou spokojný. Na druhej strane, viem si predstaviť aj lepší životopis, i keď sa nedá povedať, že by bol tento zlý. Problémom bolo, že miestami kniha nebola veľmi čítavá. A to z toho dôvodu, že niektorým veciam sa autor venoval až príliš dopodrobna (ako napr. hľadaniu presného dátumu, kedy sa Lewis obrátil) a niekedy mi pripadala až príliš akademicky úzkostlivá, čo znižovalo čitateľský zážitok. Knihe by určite viac prospelo, keby sa autor viac venoval tým najzaujímavejším veciam z Lewisovho života, ako napr. prečo sa Inklings prestali baviť o svojich dielach, ako Lewis došiel od civilnému sobášu s Joy k cirkevnému, Warnieho alkoholizmu, Lewisovou smrťou a tým, čo bolo po nej, a pod.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jon Beadle

    A complete delight to read. It really challenged me to deepen my own friendships.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Peter Holford

    'Properly lived out, he gradually discovered, friendship could open one's eyes to previously unseen aspects of reality, whether this be the world of nature, realms of the imagination, or the hard-won reaches of human thought.' (p.84) I have long been interested in the life and writings of CS Lewis but I particularly enjoyed this biography. It is recent (being published just last year) and I was also interested to read it having met the author once when I was working with IVP in Leicester. But I l 'Properly lived out, he gradually discovered, friendship could open one's eyes to previously unseen aspects of reality, whether this be the world of nature, realms of the imagination, or the hard-won reaches of human thought.' (p.84) I have long been interested in the life and writings of CS Lewis but I particularly enjoyed this biography. It is recent (being published just last year) and I was also interested to read it having met the author once when I was working with IVP in Leicester. But I liked this biography because of the angle taken: 'a biography of friendship', looking at the key relationships in his life and going far beyond his most famous friendships (such as JRR Tolkien, Joy Davidman and his brother Warnie). For example, 'The first lifelong friend I made at Oxford was A. K. Hamilton Jenkin ...' Indeed, we are told, Lewis had 'a great talent for friendship' and 'he saw the making of friends to be character-building ...' Read the biography yourself, to find out more. Other aspects of Lewis' life that stood out to me include the comments on lecturing and on reading. I always knew that CS Lewis was a wonderful lecturer, drawing an audience far exceeding the students enrolled in his courses. What I didn't realise was that he decided right from the start of his teaching career, that he would not read from notes written out in full, but would 'talk rather than recite' realising that 'lectures that were read simply sent his students to sleep'. His notes were generally a series of complex headings with the only parts written out in full his frequent quotations from the texts being taught. I also knew that reading featured large in his childhood, but here we learn that some considered him 'the best read man of his generation'. 'From his childhood onwards, Lewis read voraciously and eclectically. Later in his career, he typically defended the value of 'low brow' reading ... in the face of literary elitism.' (p111). I like him more and more. So, overall, 5 stars, Colin Duriez - a very much appreciated addition to the canon on Lewis.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    "A Biography of Friendship" concerns itself primarily with the various friendships of C.S. Lewis and the effects those friendships had on his thought and work. Those interested in Lewis's friends - Tolkien, Barfield, Williams, etc. would find much to enjoy as well. I also found interest in the minor details of life in the early to mid 20th century. The work moves quickly with episodes and antidotes pulled from the letters and diaries of those involved. The book does an excellent job of connecting "A Biography of Friendship" concerns itself primarily with the various friendships of C.S. Lewis and the effects those friendships had on his thought and work. Those interested in Lewis's friends - Tolkien, Barfield, Williams, etc. would find much to enjoy as well. I also found interest in the minor details of life in the early to mid 20th century. The work moves quickly with episodes and antidotes pulled from the letters and diaries of those involved. The book does an excellent job of connecting people, events and books to the eventual work and thought of Lewis. Nothing is explored in epic biographical detail yet the book gives many insights that only the most well-read would have made on their own. You may best view the book as a tour through the vast personal papers of Lewis and his friends with an expert guide weaving it all into a narrative while pointing out the connections the layman would miss. The book is enjoyable and a quick read. The style is relaxed. A few sections could use light editing. As an example, a quote from Tolkien is given twice but not in a manner which leads the reader to believe they were meant to recall the first. A few transitions are abrupt. Again, all small things only of note to those on the lookout for them.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Honest & True This is a well written book that reads like a great conversation. The extent with which the author shares the true story of Lewis’s life is amazing. It wasn’t written from the point of adoration that makes the reader question the honesty instead it is written with fresh insight into a wonderful friendship. As a fan of C S Lewis I was hoping for an enjoyable read – but Mr. Duriez delivered much more than expected. Enjoy! NetGalley and Lion Hudson Plc provided an advanced review copy Honest & True This is a well written book that reads like a great conversation. The extent with which the author shares the true story of Lewis’s life is amazing. It wasn’t written from the point of adoration that makes the reader question the honesty instead it is written with fresh insight into a wonderful friendship. As a fan of C S Lewis I was hoping for an enjoyable read – but Mr. Duriez delivered much more than expected. Enjoy! NetGalley and Lion Hudson Plc provided an advanced review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gary B

    Engaging enough. I've read a fair bit of C S Lewis' work over the years - Mere Christianity, Reflections on the Psalms, A Grief Observed, the Narnia Chronicles and the sci-fi trilogy. This book provided some background and context for those works. I would have liked to have read more about his wife, Joy, and also JRR Tolkien. Some photos of Arthur, Warnie et al would have added a little, too. Engaging enough. I've read a fair bit of C S Lewis' work over the years - Mere Christianity, Reflections on the Psalms, A Grief Observed, the Narnia Chronicles and the sci-fi trilogy. This book provided some background and context for those works. I would have liked to have read more about his wife, Joy, and also JRR Tolkien. Some photos of Arthur, Warnie et al would have added a little, too.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Graham Heslop

    Duriez has provided readers with an invaluable primer on C. S. Lewis. He avoids being overly concerned with details and problematic dating and instead offers us a clear window in the great man. For a relatively short biography, comparing it to both Alistair Mcgrath's and the Zaleskis', Duriez captures Lewis in each of the major periods in his life; and tied to each, we are shown Lewis' developing thought, convictions, and relationships, alongside his almost immutable character and brilliance Duriez has provided readers with an invaluable primer on C. S. Lewis. He avoids being overly concerned with details and problematic dating and instead offers us a clear window in the great man. For a relatively short biography, comparing it to both Alistair Mcgrath's and the Zaleskis', Duriez captures Lewis in each of the major periods in his life; and tied to each, we are shown Lewis' developing thought, convictions, and relationships, alongside his almost immutable character and brilliance

  13. 5 out of 5

    Madison Elrod

    This book was a little slow at times like many biographies. I enjoyed it though. C.S. Lewis was a very talented and intellectual man that I look up to. I have read almost everything he has written. I enjoyed getting to know the man behind the brilliance. He was a fascinating man with characteristics I would not of guessed before reading this book. If you want to learn more about C.S. Lewis I would recommend reading this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul Chiswick

    An interesting take on C S Lewis from the perspective of his closest friends and family. Not being a Lewis afficionado, I never realised he had written so many books, my knowledge going no further than The Chronicles of Narnia. This book gives a deep insight into Lewis' character, his religious beliefs, and his life as a don at Oxford and, later, professor at Cambridge. An enlightening read. An interesting take on C S Lewis from the perspective of his closest friends and family. Not being a Lewis afficionado, I never realised he had written so many books, my knowledge going no further than The Chronicles of Narnia. This book gives a deep insight into Lewis' character, his religious beliefs, and his life as a don at Oxford and, later, professor at Cambridge. An enlightening read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael D'Offay

    Much I learnt from this. I was challenged by the life that Lewis modeled: his friendships were integral to his growth as a Christian and a person. The person I want to be will be determined by the kind of friendships I keep. Lewis benefited from friendships to help sharpen his mind and explore ideas.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    The interactions of Jack and the Inklings, Jack and his brother Warnie, Jack & Joy -- such a practical biography!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bill Brinkley

    The book was easy to read. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand the Man, C.S. Lewis.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A very good biography, emphasising his friendships with Barfield, Tolkein and his wife, Joy Davidman.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Milo

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chad

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chad Chisholm

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tom Golding

  24. 4 out of 5

    Artzenin Eklektós

  25. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  26. 4 out of 5

    Krystal Myers

  27. 5 out of 5

    Helle

  28. 5 out of 5

    Li

  29. 5 out of 5

    David Moore

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

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