“Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.”
So begins The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This is, of course, the first of Lewis’ well-known Narnia series (I know, I know… first in publication but second in chronology). My dad first read this to me when I was very young and I’ve now read it to my kids. I just finished teaching it to my homeschool literature class at Highland Latin.
In brief…actually, I’m going to break with my typical structure and skip the summary for this one. Nearly everyone I know has read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I’ve read it (and the whole series) probably a dozen times or more in my life. Schools read it. Parents read it to their kids. Everybody reads it.
So in lieu of my typically review, a few personal comments on the book. This book and this series are truly dear to my heart, more so than any fictional work I can think of. They are, at the risk of being overdramatic, tied tightly to my soul in ways that transcend the story or the characters or the writing. There is a deep nostalgia to them that connects me even now to my childhood, my father, fantasy, Truth, and beauty. When we were finishing up The Last Battle as a family recently, I actually got choked up at the conclusion (“The term is over: The holidays have begun.”) and had trouble finishing the read aloud! My wife and children were a little surprised (as was I), but this only goes to illustrate the power these books have in my life.
But beyond my personal history, LWW and the rest of the books in the series are simply excellent literature. Without fail, I uncover a new layer of meaning, of allusion, of connection to Biblical truth and the Christian walk every time I read them. This is remarkable considering that these are children’s books, but they have managed to deepen even as my life experience and understanding have deepened, meeting me as an adult in just as powerful – though different – a way as they did when I was a child.
I have also recently had the opportunity to compare LWW to other children’s literature as part of our homeschooling and found that, compared to some other enjoyable, entertaining works, Lewis’ writing is such a pleasure to read aloud. It flows and turns and brings a smile easily…there is no stumbling or awkwardness to the style. Alongside other works it is like eating rich, dark chocolate compared to a Nestle crunch bar (which is good in its own place, but….).
So there you have it. I confess that this is not a typical review and considering the popularity and saturation this book has had, I’m not even going to put in my typical content notes. I also confess that talking about the Narnia stories is akin to discussing a dearly loved family member and objectivity suffers for it.
But confessions aside… if you haven’t read them do. And if you have, read them again! They are that good.