Title: C. S. Lewis – A Life:
Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet
Author: Alister McGrath
Rating: 4 of 5
Time for the last book that I read for my C. S. Lewis class. This one was not by Lewis, but about him. For the most part, this had everything I look for in a biography. McGrath showed neither fawning hero worship nor venomous character assassination. He clearly respected Lewis, but did not act as if he were practically the fourth member of the Trinity.
Because he was not a friend or acquaintance of Lewis, McGrath seems to be able to be more objective than they are in their biographies. At one point he got very nit-picky about the exact timing of Lewis’s conversion and spent (I felt) way too much time trying to show that he was right and all other biographers were wrong, but in general he interacted with other biographies (especially that of George Sayers) only when it was helpful to do so.
I appreciated that a good part of McGrath’s research came from Lewis’s personal letter, and that he took the content of those letters seriously. For the most part, McGrath wasn’t one of those biographers who has a pet theory about what was really going on behind the scenes and offers odd/unlikely interpretations of the primary sources to make his personal theory work. I was not fully convinced by some of his speculations about the impact of World War I on Lewis or his relationship with Mrs. Moore, but since Lewis was fairly reticent to talk about these things, a certain amount of reading between the lines and speculation is understandable and necessary.
Overall, this provides great context for Lewis’s works (especially Surprised by Joy), and I would recommend it to any fan of C. S. Lewis.