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A Review of C. S. Lewis: A Biography of Friendship by Colin Duriez

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  • wendell_wagner
    I just finished this book. I think it s the best biography yet published of Lewis. No, it s not the multi-volume definitive biography that someone someday
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 20, 2014
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      I just finished this book.  I think it's the best biography yet published of Lewis.  No, it's not the multi-volume definitive biography that someone someday will write, but it's extremely good for a book that's only 221 pages long (not counting the 6-page chronology of Lewis's life, the 13 pages of footnotes, and the 7-page bibliography).  Duriez has read everything, published and unpublished, of importance about Lewis, including some information that would appear in the Alister McGrath biography which was printed shortly after Duriez finished writing this book.  Duriez has been writing about and researching the Inklings for decades now, so part of the reason that it's so good is that he didn't have to do any hurried reading of anything to catch up (as was obviously true of A. N. Wilson's biography).
      I wonder why Duriez's book has received so little mention.  It was published in March of 2013, and there is apparently only a British paperback edition.  I bought my copy in an American bookstore, so it seems the publisher decided to ship British editions to the U.S. rather than arrange for an American edition.
      Although the subtitle of the book says that it's mostly about Lewis's friendships, it's really more of a general biography.  I think it handles Lewis's life in a more comprehensive way than McGrath's, which is more concentrated on Lewis's intellectual ideas.  In so far as it talks about particular friends of Lewis, it covers Warren Lewis, W. T. Kirkpatrick, Janie Moore, Owen Barfield, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Joy Davidman.  Duriez admits that there are things we will probably never know for sure.  He presents the information we have on Lewis and Moore's relationship and says that it's not adequate to know for certain what that relationship was.  It doesn't attack Davidman the odd way that McAlister does.  It admits Warren's alcoholism and also how much help he was to his brother.  It gives a precise timeline for the period that Lewis was in combat: November 29, 1917 to April 15, 1918, minus three weeks in the middle of that while Lewis was in hospital with trench fever.  It talks about how he was wounded in a battle at the end of this time.  This makes it clearer why Lewis would spend so few words in Surprised by Joy on his war experiences, which seemed to baffle McGrath.
      It doesn't make any important new discoveries about Lewis, as McGrath did by recalibrating the timeline of Lewis's conversion.  It does occasionally mention facts about Lewis that even those well read in biographies of Lewis will find interesting.  It's well written, and it's the book that I will recommend in the future to anyone looking to learn about Lewis's life.
      Wendell Wagner
    • R.J. Anderson
      Thanks for an excellent review, Wendell -- I ve just bought the book and am looking forward to reading it. I ve been looking for a biography like this for
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 21, 2014
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        Thanks for an excellent review, Wendell -- I've just bought the book and am looking forward to reading it. I've been looking for a biography like this for quite some time.
        (R.J. Anderson)

        Forget everything you think you know about faeries... 

        KNIFE (2009) | REBEL (2010) | ARROW (2011)
        SWIFT (2012) | NOMAD (2014)
        by R.J. Anderson

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