Surprised by Joy (by C. S. Lewis)

I do like CS Lewis's writing. From his well-known Narnia series for children through to his thought-provoking and logical Christian apologetics, he had a wonderful way with words. I've read almost all his books at least twice, some of them considerably more times.

I first read Lewis's autobiography 'Surprised by Joy' in my late teens, and at least once more since then, but not for at least ten years. So I picked it up again recently, recalling only approximations of his story. I knew he had an idyllic childhood, and a terrible time at school in his teens. I knew, too, that he went on to study at Oxford, and was a most reluctant convert to Christianity. But I'd quite forgotten the structure of this book.

It was written in 1955, when Lewis was in his late fifties. It begins with his early life, and brings to life a great deal of interesting social history as well as personal reflections and feelings. Lewis is honest without being over-dramatic, and charts his life as a narrative; he deliberately leaves out some episodes or incidents that have little bearing on his gradual leaning towards God, and focuses considerably on his state of mind, and the people around him.

He acknowledges many faults in himself - sins of the flesh, and the intellect - and comes across as a likeable child, and young man. There is a fair amount of philosophical reflecting, and many literary and classical references, not all of which rang any bells for me. But somehow, it didn't matter. This book isn't so academic that it can't be read by anyone - indeed, despite being fifty years old, it hardly even appears dated.

I loved it when I first read it, and enjoyed it as much, if not more, on this most recent re-read. Highly recommended to anyone wanting to know more about CS Lewis.

Almost continually in print for over sixty years, 'Surprised by Joy' can be found in many editions on both sides of the Atlantic.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 3rd December 2008

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