One of the benefits of going away and not been being compelled to do anything I didn’t want to do and being well looked after at the same time is that it allowed me to do something I had always wanted to do if I were in a position to do it. Given I was away for the best part of three weeks, having shortly returned, I opted to indulge one of my favorite activities – reading. Having rather eclectic tastes, I was spoiled for choice although I was somewhat restricted by the relatively small number of carefully chosen books that I had packed. One of the books I read, or rather managed to complete, was “C.S.Lewis – a life”, a book written by Alister McGrath, which I thoroughly recommend (after giving away my copy to my newly acquired brother-in-law), being a worts and all account of the life, work, thinking and influences of my literary hero. I also read one of Lewis’ more philosophical works: “Miracles”, which for once I found a little disappointing. As those who follow my writings, Lewis is a particular hero of mine, who I wrote about earlier.
I found myself with a week to go in my stay away running out of material to read, leading me to visit a book stall in the city in order to replenish supplies. I’m not quite sure what got into me, given this was meant primarily for children, but one of the books I brought was the “Chronicles of Narnia” by Lewis, all seven books that made up the series, with my choice no doubt influenced by my fascination with the great man. I managed to read them all, the last book being completed during my flight home. I have to admit that I have read the Chronicles of Narnia, a long time ago, and when my son was growing up these were among those books that I encouraged him to read. I suppose like many trying to be good Christian parents my reasons for choosing the Narnia books (the best known being “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”) were that the books were well written, captivating to the readers because of their appeal to the imagination and compelling story lines, wholesome as far as content goes and, unlike Rowling and her Harry Potter series, reflected the sort of Christian world view that I subscribe to.
It is not my intention to provide a review of what I read to any great depth. There were aspects that irritated me. I felt like strangling the next child to use the phrase “by Jove” for example. Some of it was too twee for my liking, while the good guys had faults there was often too much distance between them and the bad guys and the plots were sometimes more predictable and more sentimental than I would have liked. But overall, I was glad to have read the books and found them insightful and less stereotypical than I might have expected. For example, there was a lot of baddies becoming goodies, e.g. Edmund and Eustace, and even the other way round, e.g. Susan rejecting Narnia altogether as she got older, becoming more interested in the frivolities that often occupy the young. Some of his insights into human nature were quite modern and poignant, like the sad old magician that kicked it all off or the progressive headmistress that gave our heroes a hard time by allowing a culture of bullying and non-learning to prevail. What I liked most is that Narnia (the mythical land occupied by talking animals and the like and ruled over by human kings and queens) and Aslan (the lion who created and protected Narnia) was it is a modern allegory on deep spiritual truths, not least the battle that continues to waged between forces of good and evil, with the final outcome being the best picture of how heaven might turn out to be that I have come across.
Interestingly, my son (now 17) read the complete Harry Potter series (him on his Kindle) while I was reading my well worn book containing the seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia series. His verdict on Harry Potter was positive and given the choice would opt for Rowling over Lewis any day. Tolkien didn’t feature in the discussion as his books weren’t being read but if I were to rank fantasy, mythical, magical books I would likely still put Tolkien at the top, Lewis in the middle and Rowling at the bottom (likely because even though she writes well, I find her style pretentious and her world view (something all three authors reflect to some extent in their writings) is not one I can endorse). Yet all three I rate as excellent writers. But back to the Chronicles of Narnia, I am pleased I got to read these again and despite reservations would recommend these to parents wanting to encourage their children to read.