The Week in Books 2009, No. 17

Douglas Gresham, the author of Lenten Lands, is the son of Joy Davidman, who married C.S. Lewis. As such, Gresham’s memoir contains quite a bit of first hand information about C.S. Lewis, but readers would be well advised to remember that the book is Gresham’s memoir not just a book about C.S. Lewis. As an appreciator of the genre of memoir, I enjoyed the book, but I can see how it might be irritating if you’re not a fan of the genre and just wanted a book about C.S. Lewis.

In a classic case of great minds reading alike, my friend Heather L. happened to review Lenten Lands this week as well, and I agreed with her conclusion that one strength of the book was it’s realism. Gresham clearly admired C.S. Lewis but didn’t put him on a pedestal in the book, and that refreshing honesty alone would make the book worth your time. I also enjoyed Gresham’s enthusiastic descriptions of Wales – they made me want to travel there. My grandmother’s sister lives in Wales, so I suppose I would at least have a place to stay if I went, but that is not relevant to this review. Let us press on.

I did finish the book with some questions, and perhaps another reader can fill me in since I admit I am not a C.S. Lewis scholar by any means. First of all, why in the world did Lewis and Gresham’s mother send Gresham and his brother to boarding school knowing the mother was so very ill? Perhaps this is just my ignorance of the British educational system, but wouldn’t it seem like there must have been a decent day school near Oxford so that the boys could have been closer as their mother lay dying? Also, what ever became of the brother? Gresham doesn’t mention him much, as if he wasn’t around for the end of Lewis’s life or the decline of Warnie, Lewis’s brother. I found the omission odd.

I would recommend Lenten Lands to you if you enjoy memoirs, or if you are interested in C.S. Lewis.

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