Monday, March 21, 2016

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings is a 650 page behemoth of the book, written by Philip and Carol Zaleski. There were many members of the Inklings, but this book chooses to focus only on four members of the Inklings - J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. The prologue then explains the reasons for choosing these four. For starters, they were the most well-known and most original of authors. However, the authors also viewed them as compass points. Tolkien was a Catholic; Lewis was a "mere Christian;" Williams was an Anglican; and Barfield was an esotericist.

There are nineteen chapters in the book, and the first few chapters provide brief biographies of the above four men.  book begins with Tolkien. In addition to personal information on each author, we learn about their literary lives as well - what interested them, what influenced them, and their thought process. We also get a glimpse into how their lives intersected before and during the Inklings. What is most interesting is when the authors of this book took their works of the four men and examined them in greater detail. But this book doesn't just focus on the men and their works, it also focuses on their lives outside of this circle. We see mention of Edith Tolkien and their children and the joy Tolkien felt. We learn of C.S. Lewis finally finding happiness in marriage with Joy Davidman. This glimpses helped humanize these legends and show us that they are more than just brilliant minds, but loving hearts as well.

I find myself having a hard time writing a review for this book, and I believe it is due to the size of this book. I would compare it to trying to read the encyclopedia. There are many fascinating articles, but you will quickly feel overwhelmed with information. It also feels like it bounces around on topics as well. Instead of one massive book on the four authors, I would have preferred four smaller books for each individual. However, doing that, you run the risk of the book on Williams or Barfield never being published due to them being less popular than Lewis and Tolkien. Luckily, there is an index if you are looking for something specific. There are also copious amounts of footnotes and a very impressive bibliography, which I will re-visit to see if I want to read any other books on this subject. This is not the definitive book on the Inklings, but it is a very good starting point and one that you perhaps can use to guide you on what area of Inklings history you'd like to narrow in on.

This book was provided to me for free by Farrar, Straus and Giroux for free in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!