Review: “Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis” by: George Sayer

Book Review: Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis By: George Sayer

The works of C.S. Lewis have profoundly shaped me.  Mere Christianity was the first book I read of his in my freshman year of university.  Before I started my undergraduate degree, I had read very few books outside of the skimming I did for required reading in grade school.  But upon reading Mere Christianity I was officially hooked on C.S. Lewis, and reading in general.  It was this book that saved my faith at a time of severe doubt.  And it was this author’s thought-provoking writing that opened my desires for reading to a voracious level.  I have since read as many of his works as possible, and each time, my mind is challenged, my heart is enriched, and my worldview becomes more generous.

But Lewis hasn’t just had an impact on me.  Many would argue that he was one of the most influential writers and teachers of the twentieth century.  That being the case, I decided I wanted to learn about his life, including the struggles and positive influences and experiences that shaped this great man.

There have been a handful of people to write biographies on C.S. Lewis, but I decided on the one recommended by his stepson, and written by one who was his student that later became a long-time close friend.  I wasn’t disappointed by George Sayer’s account of Lewis’ life.

Sayer recounts his first meeting with his new tutor at Magdalen College, Oxford:

As I walked away from the New Buildings, I found the man that Lewis had called “Trollers” sitting on one of the stone steps in front of the arcade.

“How did you get on?” he asked.

“I think rather well.  I think he will be a most interesting tutor to have.”

“Interesting? Yes, he’s certainly that,” said the man, who I later learned was J.R.R. Tolkien.  “You’ll never get to the bottom of him.”

–       Chapter 1

At 464 pages, Sayer’s biography can be a bit detail heavy, but for anyone interested in the life experiences and academic influences that shaped this man, I would highly recommend this book.  Some might argue that this biography is biased due to the author’s close relationship with Lewis, however Sayer leaves no stone unturned.  He details the sexual battles that led to Lewis leaving his faith for atheism as a young adult, and the ordinary events that reveal his humanness.

I appreciated this biography for the glimpses it gives us not only into this servant of God, but for the acts of God in this servant’s life.  From the anguish, to the joy; from the literary influences, to the fruits of his labor; from the friends, to the family; from the life, to death, the reader of Sayer’s biography gets a wonderful picture of a life well shared and spent.

A quick summary of the biography:

“Over the next twenty-nine years, author George Sayer’s first impression about C. S. Lewis proved true. He was interesting; but he was more than just that. He was a devout Christian, gifted literary scholar, best-selling author, and brilliant apologist. Sayer draws from a variety of sources, including his close friendship with Lewis and the million-word diary of Lewis’s brother, to paint a portrait of the man whose friends knew as Jack.

Offering glimpses into Lewis’s extraordinary relationships and experiences, Jack details the great scholar’s life at the Kilns; days at Magdalen College; meetings with the Inklings; marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham; and the creative process that produced such world-famous works as the classic Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters.

This book is an intimate account of the man who helped-and through his works, continues to help-generations hear and understand the heart of Christianity.”

 

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