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#508 ~ C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet

Cover of C. S. Lewis - A Life
C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath

Published by: Tyndale House Publishers

Published on: March 1, 2013

Page Count: 448

Genre: Biography

My Reading Format: Audiobook download provided to me by the publisher for consideration.

Audiobook Published by: Oasis Audio

Narrator: Robin Sachs

Audiobook Length: 14 hours 48 minutes

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook


My Review

In C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, Alister McGrath explores the life, faith and legacy of C. S. Lewis. The primary focal points of the book surround Lewis’ conversion to Christianity and the evidence the author has uncovered that places that event a year later than the date typically accepted, his professional and literary life, and his relationships with other literary scholars and authors of his time, especially fellow Inkling, J. R. R. Tolkien.

I have been interested in C. S. Lewis ever since, on a bored afternoon after classes when I went to see Shadowlands at the theater. I chose the movie because of Anthony Hopkins, not about the subject matter. Prior to seeing Shadowlands, I never gave Lewis much thought. I’d never studied him in school, but I had seen a cartoon dramatization of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe on TV as a child that I remembered fondly. I vaguely knew that he was known for being a Christian author, but I’d never read any of his work. There was one scene in the movie where Lewis, in talking about why he prays, says that he doesn’t pray to change God. He prays to change himself. That one scene was so powerful to me that I walked out of that movie theater inspired to find out more about Lewis. I went to the bookstore and bought Jack: A Life by George Sayer and devoured it. I then went on to read A Grief Observed, which, in hindsight, was probably not the best place to start with Lewis’ writings. My interest then turned elsewhere until I saw the ad for this audiobook in the February/March 2013 issue of AudioFile magazine. The picture of narrator Robin Sachs caught my eye immediately because he had just passed away. I chose to take that as a sign that I should listen to this audiobook as part of my Lenten focus this year.

It was with not a little sadness that I began listening. Hearing Robin’s voice again so soon after his death was bittersweet. Soon Robin Sachs the man moved well into the background and the book came to the forefront. I first came to appreciate Robin Sachs’ narration with fiction, but he is equally engaging with non-fiction titles. He read  C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet with such sophistication that elements within a non-fiction title that could be a source of irritation in audiobook format such as lifespan references flowed with the rest of the test. His rich voice was the perfect for McGrath’s writing and Lewis’ literary legacy. I finished this audiobook with a smile because Robin’s dedication to the craft of audiobook narration is a gift that can never be taken away.

I found C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet an excellent Lenten read. C. S. Lewis was an interesting man on so many levels. His primarily intellectual approach to faith is appealing to me. I especially enjoyed the sections that focused on Lewis’ literary criticism. Listening to them made me want to take a good, intense literature class. McGrath’s biography painted a much more complicated picture of Lewis than I recall from Sayer’s biography. McGrath pointed out that unlike previous biographers that he had never met Lewis in person. This seems to have provided objective distance, although I do not say this to take anything away from Sayer’s work. While McGrath’s argument about the actual date of Lewis’ conversion might be of more over all interest to a scholar and his discussion about Lewis’ legacy among modern Christians felt anecdotal, I would suggest C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet to anyone interested in C. S. Lewis. When you pick this book up, be sure to choose audio. Not only does the audiobook version feature the excellent narration of Robin Sachs, it includes two audio recordings of C. S. Lewis. You won’t want to miss it.

3 Comments

  • At 2013.03.25 05:05, D.A.Cairns said:

    I love C.S.Lewis. That quote about praying to change himself rather than God is one of the most profouund things a human has ever said. Thanks for this review.

    • At 2013.03.25 08:10, victoria dougherty said:

      Thanks, Housewife. My favorite quote from Lewis – and I’ll have to paraphrase a bit – addresses why there is so much pain and sorrow in the world and how a loving God could allow it. He anwers the question (very well, I think) by pointing out, “Most people would like less a father in heaven than a grandfather in heaven – a kindly old man with no real responsibility as to how things turn out, but who just enjoys watching the young people having a good time.”

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      • At 2013.03.25 15:21, Xe Sands said:

        What a lovely review – in essence, a moving tribute of both the author and the narrator.

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