Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Reading books is so inherently subjective. Books I have loved fall flat for my friends; ones they enjoy strike sometimes strike no chord in me. Sometimes it has everything to do with what is going on my life when I'm reading, or even what type of mood I'm in. When I write reviews, I try to keep that subjectivity first and foremost in my mind, explaining what about the book struck me in such a particular way as best I can.

This is heightened when writing about books that are, in many ways formative. And so, with that in mind, sit down a while and let me tell you about The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and me. This isn't a book that I can possibly separate from how much I loved it when I was young, and that, while I have grown, continues to be a very favourite.

In Grade 6, Mrs. Davidson read this to us. To say I fell in love with it would be an understatement. I'm pretty sure I went right home from school to my parents and told them how much I wanted a copy. And to read the rest of the series. We struck a deal - every week I kept my room clean, I would get another Narnia book. Those may have been the only seven consecutive weeks my room was clean in my entire life.

(Since we're here in the past anyway, I should add that for many years, before I moved in with the man who would become my husband, I shared my double bed with books. That is to say, I occupied a thin strip at the far left of the bed. The rest was taken up with books that were put down as I fell asleep or finished, until they finally got pushed aside by other books off the right hand side of the bed and on to the floor.)

I love this book beyond all reason. For years, I was always on the alert for secret doorways to Narnia. As an adult, that love has not dimmed. It has changed - I'm aware of the Christian allegory in a way that totally passed me by as a child. But, you know, I turned out to be a pagan, so it's not like that allegory stuck. That's probably why I don't take seriously worries that this book will bootleg Christianity into children's lives without them becoming aware of it. For goodness sake, every book we read bootlegs something into our lives! Lewis' message is just a bit more overt. And I took that less to heart than I did the idea of bravery, and family, and friendship, and doing the right thing even when it seemed hopeless and pointless.

And this book made it seem that there might be magic around any corner, and for that, I can forgive it almost anything. I may wince at the portrayal of non-white people in The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle. I might now take issue with the line "for war is ugly when women fight" and wish he'd ended it after the word ugly. There are certain aspects of Lewis' time, place, culture, and beliefs that certainly come through. But I've never agreed that means we should ignore or throw out or pretend to our children these beliefs didn't happen. I'm a historian - that would make me shudder.

But beyond any of this, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe will always, always hold a special place in my heart, and if I ever have children, will find its way into their hands as soon as they possibly can.

Read many, many times, but once as part of the BBC Big Read

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