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The Great Divorce

4.28  ·  Rating Details  ·  73,830 Ratings  ·  3,361 Reviews
The narrator boards a bus on a drizzly English afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell. He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations, and comes to some significant conclusions about good and evil.
Mass Market Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 1st 1978 by Scribner (first published 1945)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike (the Paladin)
One of my favorite (if not my favorite) C. S. Lewis works (and I am a C. S. Lewis fan). The insight in this book about God and man's relationship with Him is wonderful.

I suppose that many who read this will already know that I'm a Christian. I won't belabor it, if you're interested I'm happy to discuss if you don't want to I won't push my thoughts on you.

This is a very readable book and while I suppose the Christian aspects will be obvious it is also possible to simply read the book as a novel.
Jul 12, 2008 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVE reading everything C.S. Lewis. I read this book a few years ago and I couldn't put it down. The section of the book that stands out most to me is when the main character observes a conversation between two people (one who lives in heaven and one who is just visiting to see what it is like). The one who lives in heaven had killed someone while he was living on earth and the person visiting could not believe that the murderer had actually made it to heaven-The visiting man basically decided ...more
Jun 17, 2008 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
This is my favorite work by C.S. Lewis. I’d give it 8 stars, . . if ‘twer possible.

In it, Lewis reacts to moral relativism (the Marriage of Heaven and Hell) by suggesting that “you cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind.” He astutely notes that the “great divorce” of good and evil is utterly voluntarily. And he does so by conjuring up this simple tale of a bus ride from a ghostly,
Sep 07, 2013 Werner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serious Christian readers
I've classified this book on my "Christian life and thought" shelf, which is one of my nonfiction shelves. Technically, one might argue that this is a work of fiction, a made-up narrative that uses the device of a dream vision to supposedly describe places to which no earth-bound human has ever been. But here, as with some of Hawthorne's short stories/essays, the fiction is so message-driven that any dividing line separating it from an essay is thin indeed. It's very much a narrative about ideas ...more
Jul 14, 2008 Nikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!!!!
I just listened to the audio of "The Great Divorce." It was my first reading of this book, and I know there will be many re-readings in my future. I feel a first reading was really just a glimpse of what it will be like to delve into it again and again. First of all, I must say that I adore Lewis's writing style and that his stories really resonate with me. And I know I'm just beginning to touch the surface. I have read Narnia a couple times and I read "The Problem with Pain" last year. I'm eage ...more
Nov 07, 2014 booklady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
Recommended to booklady by: Lucy
Lewis wrote The Great Divorce in response to William Blake’s famous poem, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Lewis didn't believe such a marriage of good and evil was possible on any level. He wrote, ‘ is not like a pool but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but also from other good. I do not think that all who choose wrong ...more
As a story, this isn’t that amazing, as very little “happens.” As a collection of images about theology, and especially about sin and how it can keep one away from union with God, it is very insightful. Lewis, in my view, provides the best explanations of how heaven works, or more specifically how it can be that a loving God and hell can coexist. The “dwarves in the stable” from The Last Battle are the best depiction of this; reading them I first understood how one could ever choose to reject Go ...more
May 29, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once again C.S. Lewis shows us how deft he is at cracking open the mysteries of human spirituality and motivation. This book is an allegory for heaven and hell and as he describes each of the characters and how they ultimately choose their eternal reward, we can glimpse a bit of ourselves.

My favorite part is when he describes a woman who has chosen heaven but whose husband refuses to give up the little devil sitting on his shoulder and ultimately chooses to return to hell. The narrator asks how
Laurel Hicks
2016: I always love meeting George Macdonald again. This serious fantasy abounds in humor and understanding of human nature.

2014: In this brief and beautiful allegory, Lewis takes us on a tour of heaven and hell, where we learn about our powers to choose between self and salvation.

This was a great book to read in conjunction with Milton's Paradise Lost.

2013: also a great book to lay alongside Dante's Divine Comedy.
Mar 30, 2009 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost without exception, whatever CS Lewis writes is fine with me. The Great Divorce is my 2nd favorite CS Lewis book (I am not counting the Narnia series), and what I thought was most interesting about it was the people who were in hell did not know they were in hell. This is a familiar concept to me, I remember my dad and his minister friends discussing it. It was also interesting that people didn't get to heaven in the way they thought they would.

Obviously, no one has actual answers for the
Oct 12, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wonders
Recommended to Mark by: My parish priest
This is one of the cleverest and yet simplest explorations of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory that I have ever read. There is a day trip up from hell, the travellers get off and meet people who have come to talk to them, to help them on their journey. This journey is expressed in all sorts of ways, with one it might be the need to step out into the public gaze when they feel unattractive or unprepared and so to move on from fear and the need for acclaim , for another the need to accept that your unde ...more
Jacob J.
If heaven and hell are this boring, we're doomed either way.
Demetrius Rogers
My word. This was amazing. How come I haven't read this before now? When you think of Lewis you think of the Chronicles of Narnia, probably Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters. But, over the years I've been trying to delve into some of his other works. And after reading this, I'll have to say Lewis might be my favorite author. The guy's imagination was just simply off-the-hook good. And he used such artistry to cloak his presentations. And I love that they don't need to be these big fat ...more
If you found yourself in Hell and then were offered a chance to leave and spend an eternity in Heaven, you'd jump at it, wouldn't you? …….. Or would you …….??

The Great Divorce tells of a journey of souls from the grey town, which we soon see represents Hell, to a wide open space of meadows, rivers and mountains. Yet when the people disembark they are dismayed. They now appears as Ghosts and all the vegetation is dense and tough in a way that makes movement difficult and, at times, dangerous. And
Clare Cannon
Aug 21, 2011 Clare Cannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young Adults & Adults
Shelves: young-adult, adults
This little book is too powerful to read only once. It is important to note that it has nothing to do with the impression given by its title - it is not about divorce. It is an allegory about the choices we make during life and where they will take us afterwards, though it is not strictly a 'religious' book. It offers a most startling contrast between the consequences of living for oneself or living for others, of trying to 'look out for number one', or emptying oneself in order to be able to re ...more
3.0 stars. A well written, interesting story by C.S. Lewis who takes a very original approach to laying out his take on the classic story of the nature of sin and unhappiness and the path to redemption and true happiness. You can really feel Lewis' passion for his subject matter in this story which makes the narrative even more compelling.
Mar 02, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity, fiction
This is an excellent (and fascinating) book written by C.S. Lewis. It is written in such a way as to make the reader reflect on beliefs regarding good and evil, heaven and hell and some of life's other great mysteries.
Ben De Bono
Having recently read The Space Trilogy and now The Great Divorce, I think I appreciate C.S. Lewis' theology more in narrative format. While I love his nonfiction theology, I found myself somewhat frustrated the last time I read Mere Christianity by its lack of precision in many places. In his non fiction Lewis' lack of training and weaknesses as a theologian can be easily detected. In his fiction, they're absorbed into the narrative.

Part of the reason why is that Lewis' theological ideas are on
Apr 20, 2015 Kailey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my goodness, I'm in shock! I feel like I have been hit with a ton of spiritual bricks; not an uncommon feeling after reading any of Lewis' books. How wonderful! The best part is that no matter what the subject or plot, Lewis always turns the focus back to Christ.

This book reminds me a bit of his book, "Pilgrim's Regress", and John Bunyan's book too. It follows that sort of pattern- wandering in a strange land, meeting allegorical people, having philosophical conversations with angels and men
First reading: Even with George MacDonald as a guide, The Divine Comedy rip-off doesn't quite work.

On second reading after eight years and thought: this comes off much better the second time through. (Raised rating to four stars.) Compared to many overwrought contemporary fantasies, it holds up well.

Interesting that Lewis was reading and being influenced the the science fiction of his day. Love the name: "scientifiction", but what a mouth full.

After third reading (2013): This book gets better w
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Apr 29, 2008 Lucy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my usual read. In fact, this is the first C.S. Lewis book I have ever read other than "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." Of course, being LDS, I have read and heard innumerable quotes of his from articles and talks. We are a C.S. Lewis loving society. I read this because this book was chosen for the bookgroup I belong to this month. Dread is much too strong of a word but I admit that I wasn't really looking forward to reading this book. And it isn't because I choose to read fluff eithe ...more
Jun 12, 2014 Arminius rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I can see how this book could terrify a faithless person from four words in this book “He has forbidden it.” This is the part where the subject learned that the place he was going was not going to be as pleasant as the place he was leaving. As bird noises became cocks crowing and music of hounds played I felt a mildly chilling description of where he was headed. However, this book did little to stir my thoughts. Maybe it was my Catholic upbringing that has desensitized me or my nonfiction readin ...more
Julie Davis
Feb 26, 2016 Julie Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good Story #122. Julie and Scott spend an episode in Purgatory. Scott somewhat enjoyed the bus ride (except the violent part), and Julie came back with a pile of intricate leaves. In Episode 122, two stories for the price of one: Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.


I read this five years ago and, prompted by Louis Markos' chapter about it in Heaven and Hell, picked it up again. Clearly, I read it too soon in my own faith life the first time and now am gi
Jacob Aitken

(or how to obtain infinite joy by abandoning your-self)

This book is truly one of Lewis’ masterpieces. Lewis tells a parable of a bus ride from heaven to hell in order to show us why people choose hell. Lewis is not saying that somebody, once in hell, have a chance for “do-overs.” Lewis is showing us why some people, even suffering in hell, when (hypothetically) offered a chance to get out, would still choose hell over heaven.

In this book Lewis comes very close to the ancient Eastern view of the
Apr 27, 2010 Hannah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: holy-moly
I thought this book was intriguing in its concept, but it felt a little under-developed to me. It seems more like an engaging thought-experiment that never really hatched into a full-fledged Lewis novel (or maybe it's more just like the Perelandra novels, which just never drew me in and seemed out of Lewis' element). Basically, the narrator is in a Purgatory/Hell situation (but for the purposes of conveying the concept, it seems more like what we would traditionally think of as Purgatory--people ...more
Mar 08, 2007 Elaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some concepts:
- leaning on a teacher to grow till we can be on our own.
- defective love

Quotes & Excerpts from C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce:

You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey, even your right hand or right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind.

We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore gradually draw nearer and finally meet at the center: rather in a world where e
Lizzie Smith
Aug 13, 2015 Lizzie Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm on a C S Lewis kick this year, and was a bit put off by this book when I first started reading it. It's strange, especially after immersing myself in the level headed practicality of Mere Christianity. Yet by the end I found myself in awe, frequently copying sentences and paragraphs into my commonplace book and rereading sections.

I think that this book is a treatise on choices, attitudes and their cumulative effect. It is an allegorical reminder that everything we do is shaping our character
Jay Miklovic
Apr 23, 2011 Jay Miklovic rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I enjoyed this wonderful little book, and I would say this is probably my favorite read from Lewis thus far. Some readers have used this book to get insight into Lewis' perspective on heaven and hell, but that misses the point of the book altogether. The book is admittedly apocalyptic and none of the imagery is intended to communicate at face value. I imagine that many conservatives (like myself) have found themselves unnecessarily frustrated with this book because it's vision of hell is not as ...more
Sep 13, 2013 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: Christian Goodreaders Fall 2013 Selection
3.5 stars

I'm going to be stoned by my Christian friends, I just know it. I don't know why, but I just didn't like this as well as I liked Lewis' other works, like The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia or even Mere Christianity. The writing or literary device used reminded me of The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity, which always sets my teeth on edge. Yes, there are good lessons to be learned within the pages of The Great Divorce. I just didn't care for the delivery as much as I'
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CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS (1898–1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than th ...more
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“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” 1272 likes
“There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” 537 likes
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