Saturday, March 14, 2020

"The Great Divorce" by C. S. Lewis

My latest book for my quest to read lots of C. S. Lewis this year was... very unusual.  Kind of a long pondering on the nature of heaven versus hell, but written as a fable-like story.  It reminded me a little of things like Pilgrim's Progress, but without the heavy-handed and repetitive obviousness.

While I tend not to be a big fan of stories with a lot of symbolism or allegory to them, I did actually enjoy this story -- maybe because it was fast-paced?  It didn't bog down in details, and Lewis didn't belabor the allegories, but trusted the reader to figure out what he was trying to say or point out.

Basically, it's about an unnamed (IIRC) narrator who doesn't realize he's living in Hell until he gets on a tour bus to visit Heaven.  He discovers that even though God has invited everyone to live in Heaven, most people are too hung up on their reason, their preconceived ideas, their desires, or their appetites to want to stay there.  

Because this was all presented as a dream, I'm not going to be too critical of Lewis' theology here -- it's more like an exploration of fantastic what-ifs than either a religious book or a work of plain fiction.  I do think that not mentioning Jesus or the Bible may have been a missed opportunity, but again... it's like a religious fable, so I will not fault it for not being factual there.

Particularly Good Bits:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done" (p. 75).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some bad language sprinkled throughout.


This is my 44th book read and reviewed for my second Classics Club list and my 9th for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.

14 comments:

  1. I like The Great Divorce. My parents liked it a lot, too, so they had me read it as a teenager. It's serious, but not sad.

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    1. Katie, that's cool that your parents encouraged you to read it! My dad is not a Lewis fan, so I only read Narnia and the Space Trilogy as a kid/teen. Really enjoying discovering his larger body of work now.

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  2. It's such an interesting, and short, book. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I first read it, but Lewis did surprise me with the plot. I do love it though, and should probably read it again. It's been a long time. :) - Carissa

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    1. Carissa, yes! I had no idea what to expect from it, and it surprised me in some good ways. Definitely one I'll reread at some point.

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  3. This is one of my favorite books. I love it.

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    1. Charity, why does that not surprise me? I can really see you digging its picturesque ambiguities.

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  4. I'm still interested in this, but I know what you mean about the missed opportunities and the theology. Nonetheless, it sounds like it would be entertaining from a presentation side.

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  5. This is a Lewis work that I haven't read yet. I've been on a bit of a Lewis streak this year (re-reading the Space Trilogy and Screwtape Letters), so I'm trying to diversify at the moment, but I might come back to this. Thanks for the review!

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    1. RM, I'm on a Lewis streak this year myself :-) Hoping to get about 8 more of his works in, and then next year I'll read Narnia. I hope. I think you'll also find this one intriguing when you get to it!

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  6. Great review! I am hopping over from The Classics Club. I just read a Lewis book (A Grief Observed); super different but it made me curious about the other reviews on Lewis books. I will link my review if interested. I read The Great Divorce years ago and watched a three-actor play as well (where they changed costumes quickly and portrayed all the major characters. It was phenomenal. I agree: if you can read it as fantasy and allegory rather than theological text, it is a great read even though it doesn't align with Scripture.

    https://elle-alice.blogspot.com/2020/07/the-classics-club-grief-observed.html

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    1. Hello, Elena! Always good to meet a fellow Classics Clubber. I haven't read A Grief Observed yet, but its on my TBR shelves. I've been enjoying reading new-to-me Lewis titles this year, and have reviewed several -- and will review another soon, as I just finished his Letters to Children.

      What a nifty play this would make! I'm always awed by productions with a tiny number of actors doing multiple roles -- my kids and I saw a version of Beauty and the Beast a couple years ago with only one actor and one actress! That was so cool.

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