Wednesday, August 5, 2015

George MacDonald and A Grief Observed (HarperOne)

Continuing my theme for this week, I will be reviewing two C.S. Lewis titles today. Recently, HarperOne has re-released nine of C.S. Lewis' classic works with all new covers, deckle-edged pages, and french flaps! The titles include The Abolition of Man, A Grief Observed, The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain, George MacDonald, The Weight of Glory. I will be reviewing two of these works today and feature others throughout the coming months on my blog. Without further ado, let's get to the reviews!

I have been reading a lot of George MacDonald's works lately, due to his influence on Lewis, Tolkien, and other members of the Inklings. Therefore, when I found out about Lewis' work George MacDonald, I knew I had to read it. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I was expecting a biography of sorts. Instead, it is a selection of 365 "pearls of wisdom" from MacDonald himself. In a way you could view it as a George MacDonald daily devotional. The book is well under 200 pages, so each quote is only a few lines to half a page at most. Thankfully there is an index which lists all the sources for each quote, so if you are so inclined to read the full work, you know exactly where to find it. This is a major plus. Here is one of the pearls, entitled "Spiritual Murder."

"It may be an infinitely less evil to murder a man than to refuse to forgive him. The former may be the act of a passion; the latter is the heart's choice. It is a spiritual murder, the worst, to hate, to brood over the feeling that excludes, that, in our microcosm, kills the image, the idea of the hated."

C.S. Lewis' preface provided a nice glimpse from an outsider and provided a biography recommendation on George MacDonald. Overall, this book is the perfect book to provide a glimpse of MacDonald and whet your appetite and encourage you to read more of his works. I read through this book very quickly, which you can do too, but with 365 readings, you can take about one minute a day and read through it in a year.

A Grief Observed was published in 1961, and I believe was the last book he published while he was alive, as he died in 1963. It is a collection of thoughts and reflections taken from his private notebooks, which were written during his grieving process over the death of his wife (Joy Davidman) in 1960. The Foreword was written by Madeline L'Engle, and the introduction was written by Joy's son and Lewis' step-son - Douglas Gresham. Gresham does a beautiful job of explaining the relationship between Lewis and Davidman and specifically recounting how they first met. This puts the relationship and the book in proper context. Gresham also points out that the key word in the title of this book is "A." He makes it well-known that this is Lewis' grief and not meant to be a universal experience of grief.

We see a wide range of emotions in this work. There is sadness, anger, confusion, There are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. At times, it feels very raw, which is not unexpected. He directs most of his anger at God, and you can tell that this loss was a real test of his faith. This was easily the most difficult Lewis work I have read, not for its depth of knowledge, but for its depth of emotion. If you know someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one, then I would recommend this work to them. Their grief won't be exactly the same as Lewis', as no two people's grief ever is, but it will give them a sense of knowing that others went through it and probably asked some of the same questions they did.

These books were provided to me for free by HarperOne in exchange for honest reviews. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!