My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was looking forward to reading A Life Observed by Devin Brown, primarily because I had the pleasure of meeting Devin at Taylor University’s Colloquium on C.S. Lewis and Friends. (One of the many wonderful things about this event is the opportunity to dialogue with other Lewis enthusiasts, scholars, and authors!)
However, having just re-read Surprised by Joy, Lewis's autobiography of sorts, I found the first half of Brown's book to be a bit of a repetitive experience for me as he seems to be summarizing and quoting from it predominantly until chapter five. Yet, Devin does a fine job of illuminating areas Lewis did not write about in his book.
He does this primarily through various letters written by Lewis over the course of his life, along with correspondence about him by friends and family, such as J.R.R. Tolkien and his brother, Warnie. The Pilgrim’s Regress and A Grief Observed are two additional autobiographical works which Devin explores. He also points out examples in Letters to Malcolm and The Screwtape Letters that would seem to give us even further insights into Lewis’s own spiritual journey. Because of these added sources, I enjoyed the second half of the book far more than the first half.
I also appreciate that unlike some biographies on Lewis that may seem to lack heart, leaving them stale and dry, A Life Observed is truly engaging and full of the life of Jack. Or as Douglas Gresham wrote in the forward, of the numerous biographies that have been written, “some of them are very good books about Jack, but – here’s the rub – Jack is not in them.” Then, about Devin’s book, Gresham writes, “I grew up with Jack as my guide. This real Jack whom I knew walks the pages of this book.” I can’t think of much higher praise than that!
Overall, it was well written, enjoyable to read, and I will most likely read it again in the future.
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