The Magician’s Book examines the world of the Narnia books and the great mind that created them, C.S. Lewis. This book is part biography, part literary analysis, in addition to the author’s (Laura Miller’s) personal history with the Chronicles of Narnia. Laura Miller read and loved the Chronicles as a child. As a teenager, she learned of their Christian symbolism and the apology and beliefs of C.S. Lewis and felt betrayed. How could she love something that was intended to convert her to a belief she had already rejected? With this in mind, Miller studied Lewis as well as the Chronicles to gain a deeper understanding into the series and what went into creating them.
I really, really enjoyed this work of non-fiction. Although it contains some literary analysis, it isn’t strictly a work of scholarly criticism and the writing is very fluid and fast-paced. The author also put a lot of herself, her own experiences and beliefs into the book. That made it perhaps an even more compelling read (although I am, strangely, one of those weird people who reads literary criticism for fun). It is very clear up front that she is no fan of Christianity and seeks to look at the Chronicles of Narnia as stories that contain more than a mere “allegory” (a term that is not even properly applied to the Chronicles, I do have to give her that) for Christianity. And indeed, I must agree with her. Lewis drew on a wealth of literary and mythological influences to tell his story. His characters aren’t mere shadows, mere placeholders for virtues or vices. He built a richer world than that. However, every now and then her invective against Lewis and Christianity is sharp (especially towards the Catholic church). Every now and then, as a Christian reader and someone who is a fan of Lewis and his writing, I couldn’t help but think “ouch!” Every great writer has flaws, and Lewis is no exception. However, learning about the flaws of the writer and his writing didn’t necessarily ruin my admiration for both C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles. If anything, this book sparked my interest in some of Lewis’ writings of literary criticism, which I haven’t read yet, but I plan to. For all of his shortcomings, Lewis was a fascinating man (though he might disagree) with a brilliant mind. And his friendship with fellow Inkling J.R.R. Tolkien is certainly of interest to me. My next non-fiction endeavor is a book solely dedicated to their friendship.
It’s no surprise that Lewis makes the top of my Old British Man Crush list (and he loved the Romantics–we ARE soulmates!)
I mean, c’mon, look at that face. And the jacket. I’m in love with his jacket alone.