Thursday, 26 July 2012

C. S. Lewis, Mastermind.

I wonder when I first heard of C.S.Lewis?

I think it must have been when a friend of mine at school (I'd known her since my first day at primary school, and on through Grammar School and University, before eventually losing touch. Anne Stirling, now Anne Salmon, where are you?) spoke enthusiastically about, and then lent me, The Screwtape Letters. I enjoyed reading it, and began to look out for other books by this author.

For whatever reason, I didn't at first find and read the Narnia series. I am an avid reader of children's books, and have been from my childhood and teens, when this is obviously more normal, on through my twenties, thirties and so on. But I was eighteen before (again) someone lent me The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I loved it straight away, and bought and read the other six books rapidly.

I love the Narnia books, I even love the slightly distorted films. Well, they're better than many films of well-loved books. And when I take a notion to re-read a children's book from my past these days, although it may be one by Geoffrey Trease, Nancy Breary, Arthur Ransom, or a dozen other favourites, as often as not it's a Narnia book. My special favourites are The Horse and his Boy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair. Now I come to think about it, these are all books about a journey of adventure (did Enid Blyton write one of her adventure series with that title? I think she did. I always loved her adventure books. Oh, and The Magic Faraway Tree.)

Have you ever thought how much Lewis drew from another firm favourite of mine, E. Nesbit? In the opening of The Magician's Nephew, he says that the story (set back in time from the rest of the series) happened, 'when the Bastables were still seeking for treasure in the Lewisham Road.' Now, there's a clue!

I read an excerpt from The Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit when I was at Primary School, in a book which included bits from Little Women and Three Men in a Boat, etc. (It's amazing how many of my favourite writers I first heard of in that selection.) After that I searched out Nesbit's books in the Junior Library, finding, first of all, The House of Arden, the first Time Travelling book I ever read, and certainly one of the best. Lewis could have chosen no more evocative, magical opening to The Magician's Nephew than that reference, from my point of view.

But Lewis didn't just write about Narnia. His Christian apologetics are among the best ever written. Simple, witty, straight forward and with a strong logical effectiveness.

Then there are his three Science Fiction novels. The third, in particular, That Hideous Strength, an analysis in strictly fictional terms of the corruption of this age, incorporating the rebirth of Merlin, should rank as one of the best books of its  kind in the 20th century.

And my own particular favourite, a much less well known book, but to me a brilliant one which I read and reread and constantly lend to people (being reconciled to knowing that I'll probably never see that copy again, and will have to buy another. Advice – never lend a book if you're expecting to get it back again!) is The Pilgrim's Regress. Based, obviously, on The Pilgrim's Progress, it concerns the spiritual life of John, who, as well as being C.S.Lewis himself, is a boy born and brought up in Belfast – you can see why I would relate to it! But in addition, this book contains some of Lewis's best poems (or so I think) and this adds enormously to its attraction.

I mentioned (elsewhere) that I once wrote a poem about Narnia, and one about Lewis himself, and I thought I might share them with you guys – why not? I should explain that Lewis hated his first name Clive, and referred to himself, after the age of six, as Jack – and managed to enforce this not only on his friends but on his family! So here goes – I'll be interested to hear if you like these. (But not if you don't!)

She tumbled out of the wardrobe
Into a crisp fresh world of light
And brought me with her
To where the snow shines bright.

Where grass clad mountains
Tower above lakes of blue
And trees grow toffees
Because the world is new.

Circling animals who chat,
A lamp post grown from an iron bar;
The first joke, and a cabby for king,
In the spring of a world that’s filled with power.

Where horses fly, and talk, and claim
Their freedom from our ownership;
And island upon island grows
Till the lily lake surrounds the ship.

Where Puddleglum drinks too much wine
And always sees the worst to come;
And the hero, strapped to a silver chair,
Speaks the word, no longer dumb.

The stars burnt through the darkness while
I wept for Aslan, weeping for
Myself, afraid to venture through
The only living magic door.

He taught us logic, truth and love
He spoke from both the head and heart.
We learned the wisdom from above
With a sting of wit to make us smart.

He opened casements on the deep
In faery lands beyond the shore,
Dreams that we fail to dream in sleep,
Desires we long for evermore.

He gave us beauty, sweet desire,
Called us on the pilgrimage
Where reason’s sword has set on fire
Our coward hearts made hot with rage.

He brought us to the gates of heaven
But told us we must make our choice
For in that highest place, there, even,
Is still the false, the tempter’s voice.

Fifty years past he crossed the stream,
Came up out of the desert place
Awaking to the real, no dream,
Jack met his Aslan, face to face.

And now, if I may, I'll be cheeky enough to mention, in almost the same breath – my goodness! – my own books, all romantic thrillers about strong minded Belfast girls:

Belfast Girls now has a new publisher and a new link:


Recently, this book has been back in the top 100, for the second time – is it going to knock 50 Shades for 6 sooner or later?

Danger Danger can be bought at:

And my new book, Angel in Flight: An Angel Murphy Thriller, is at: