The Magician's Nephew (by CS Lewis)

Despite having been a great fan of CS Lewis for over forty years, and re-reading his books regularly, it's usually more than fourteen months between my readings of the same book.

But, despite it being such a short time since I last read 'The Magician's Nephew', I picked it up again this morning, and finished it in a little over an hour. The reason was that I had been intrigued by the book 'Planet Narnia' by Michael Ward, which proposes an unexpected link between the seven Narnia books - that of the influence of the mediaeval planets (including the sun and the moon, but not Uranus or Neptune). While I was easily persuaded by most of his arguments, and entirely convinced about the correlations with five of the books, there were two which - in my admittedly limited and uneducated experience - seemed to be the wrong way around.

So, thinking I was probably mistaken, I re-read 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader', which was long overdue anyway. It actually reinforced, to my mind, the idea of Venus being the planetary influence rather than (as Ward believes) the sun (Sol). So then I picked up 'The Magician's Nephew', first in the series, trying to consider it from the point of view of planets, and particularly Venus (which Ward associates with it).

The story is probably well-known, and its obvious Christian allegorical content is related to the Creation account of Genesis, and the temptation of Eve. It begins, however, in Victorian London. Polly and Digory make friends and explore the attics above their houses, only to find themselves in the clutches of Digory's slightly crazy (and entirely wicked) Uncle Andrew. He has some magic rings which send them on journeys to other worlds.

Their first destination is Charn, where the sun is dying and the world ending. They accidentally aquire an unwanted companion who wreaks havoc back in London, and then - with yet more unexpected people - arrive in Narnia, where Aslan is singing the creation song, bringing life and warmth to the new world.

I'm not sure I would have seen the sun as its main influence; of all the seven books, this one has the least of a 'feel' to it. It always seemed like something of an add-on to the series, designed to explain what came afterwards - who Professor Kirke was, and why the wardrobe was magical. But if I must consider one of the seven mediaeval planets, and Earth itself is not a contender (for much of the book is set in our world, unlike any of the others) then it seems to me that Sol is rather more likely than Venus.

However, I am no scholar. I enjoyed the book as much as I ever did, and continue to recommend it highly.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 8th March 2012

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