Colin Duriez recounts the extraordinary tale of friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Both authors are extremely important to the genre known as fantasy fiction and they both had such an incredible influence on each other. Without Tolkien, Lewis might never have become a Christian (and therefore, the Chronicles of Narnia might never have been born) and without Lewis’s constant encouragement, Tolkien might have only kept Middle Earth and his amazing invented languages a private hobby.
I especially appreciate the “vignettes” that Duriez uses to start off each chapter. These vignettes are imagined conversations or scenes from the lives of Tolkien and Lewis, but are all based on recorded events from their lives. I thought that they really added something special to this book of biography/literary criticism. Duriez does delve into some of Tolkien’s and Lewis’s work and provides analysis. However, I thought that his writing style on the whole was compelling and very clear, so you don’t need to be an Oxford don yourself to enjoy this tale of friendship. I think it’s incredibly sad that Tolkien and Lewis weren’t as close in the final ten years of Lewis’s life. However, I agree with Duriez that despite their many differences, they had many affinities, even in the end. I enjoyed learning about the lives and friendship of Tolkien and Lewis so much that after reading this comprehensive telling, I feel like I almost know them personally! I especially enjoyed some of the images Duriez gives us from historical accounts–Tolkien riding his bike to Oxford in academic robes and Lewis exclaiming “Wow! What a book!” about Les Liaisons Dangereuses–ever the constant reader even on his death bed. After reading this, I definitely want to read some of the literary criticism of both men and I have been meaning to read The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces forever. I would also like to read Lewis’s science fiction starring the Tolkien-esque Cambridge don Ransom.