Sunday, November 30, 2008

Review: The Magician's Book by Laura Miller

genre: memoir/literary non-fiction
rating: 3.5/5

As a child in early elementary school, the author, Laura, devoured the series of children’s books by C.S. Lewis called The Chronicles of Narnia. For her, they were the conduit into an entirely new realm of books and reading and, as such, hold a place not only in her literary life but also in her childhood itself. As Laura grew and discovered the barely concealed Christian messages within the books, a sense of betrayal tainted her view of the texts that had so brightly colored her childhood.

In this memoir, Laura tries to make peace with Lewis and his Chronicles. It’s a broad work – taking us through Lewis’s childhood into his adult career. She interviewed modern authors and readers to explore their feelings on the books as well as researched the views of Lewis’s contemporaries. She delves deep into the relationship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis and uses it as a catalyst to discuss their sometimes similar, sometimes opposing views on language, literature, myth and authorship of ideas, trying to gain a sense of the ground from which her beloved Chronicles sprang.

For me, the book was both fascinating and occasionally wordy. I have read the Chronicles of Narnia, as well as other books by Lewis, and while this book did much to expand my understanding and appreciation of the books, it also painted their shortcomings with a somewhat harsh brush. Certain sections, usually the very academic and “deep” ones, dragged a bit although I was interested in what I was reading. The Magician’s Book reads like it was very well researched. You can tell that Miller cares deeply for her subject and does truly want to understand what makes the books so magical and life-changing for generations of readers.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this book, but found it a little heavy at times. I'll be posting my review later this week.

Beth F said...

I've been hesitant to read this because I'm not sure how much I want to analyze Narnia.

Trish said...

I didn't realize this one was a memoir! I can see how some sections would be cumbersome and sometimes it is better not to dig into childhood treasures but to simply enjoy them.

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