08/11/2010

The Magician's Nephew (by CS Lewis)

I have enjoyed books by C S Lewis pretty much all my life. From the Narnia books for children, through to some of his heavier theological tomes, I find his writing clear, extremely readable, and frequently thought-provoking.

It's many years since I last read 'The Magician's Nephew'. Possibly as much as 18 or 19 years ago, when I read it aloud to my sons. Chronologically speaking, it's the first of the Narnia series, although it was not written until long after the best-known of the series, 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'.

it's the story of Polly and Digory, set in the later part of the 19th century. Digory has a crazy uncle who claims to be a magician... and who tricks them into taking his magic rings, and vanishing. They find themselves in a sleepy wood with several pools, one of which they have emerged from. Being adventurous children, they decide to see what's in one of the other pools. Digory is full of curiosity, and takes an action which has profound implications, not just for himself, but for the entire world of Narnia.

The second part of the book is a creation story, showing how Narnia began. Aslan the lion - the God figure of the Narnia books - sings greenery and animal life into being, and then gently teaches the animals how to live. Since Digory inadvertently brought evil into this new world, it's up to Digory to redeem himself by taking courageous action and denying his own wishes.

The story isn't a direct parallel to the Creation story in Genesis; but there are certain elements which overlap. CS Lewis never tried to push his own agenda or beliefs in his children's stories; so in one sense they're simple good vs evil stories. The writing is good, the children are believable (even if Digory's uncle is a caricatured 'baddy') and there is much to think about at many levels.

Ideal to read aloud to children who are ready to listen to chapter books, or can read for themselves (although, as a child, I found parts of this book frightening), but probably ideally read by those between the ages of about ten and fourteen who are able to see the analogies, and the story within the story, and appreciate it at a deeper level.

Excellent - and highly recommended. First published in 1955, and continually in print ever since.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 8th November 2010

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