A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis

August 11, 2011 at 15:55 (Biography, Book Reviews, Mediocre Books, Theology) (, , , )


This is neither a book nor even a devotional tract. It’s a pamphlet: the afterword is around the same length as the actual text. It is a chapter, broken off abruptly almost as quickly as it began. Lewis charts his thoughts following the death of his wife through some truly dark valleys and some surprisingly heady heights, with very little in the way of explanation between each and the other. There is theology and philosophy, but in the roughest of stages, harsh and unedited and contradictory. It is not a book about a man losing his faith, but it is a book that is much more about the man than about the faith.

“For the first time I have looked back and read these notes. They appall me.”

-A Grief Observed

Lewis’ ready wit and charming voice survive, though in somewhat of a dishevelled state, like meeting a dazzling performer backstage once the curtain has fallen, and finding him just a little more unshaven than when on the stage, and with a glass of gin in his hand. By no objective criteria could this be called a particularly good book, though it is interesting to read. It is badly structured and sometimes difficult to follow. No: it is easy to follow, but difficult to see the precise direction Lewis has taken between paragraph breaks. He veers and leaps erratically, and follows an interior logic or intuition that is not always shared with the reader.

If this is not a good book, then it is certainly an interesting, engaging and informative piece, and could even prove useful as a devotional tract. It is like opening the Book of Job at random and reading scattered verses from the page, or like reading the Twitter updates of someone particularly literate and wise. A pleasant book to have with one on a lazy afternoon, a train journey, or something of that sort.

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