The Great Divorce
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The Great Divorce

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  54,958 ratings  ·  2,694 reviews
C. S. Lewis's dazzling allegory about Heaven and Hell—and the chasm fixed between them—is one of his most brilliantly imaginative tales, where we discover that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside.

In a dream, the narrator boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon in Hell and embarks on an incredible voyage to Heaven. Anyone in Hell is invited on board, and anyone may rem...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by HarperOne (first published 1945)
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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....more
Anne
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
John
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,...more
Werner
Sep 07, 2013 Werner rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Myth Girl
Jul 14, 2008 Myth Girl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Gabriel
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
Laurele
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. Breathtaking! I'm reading it again to discuss with a Facebook friend who is coming to see me on Saturday.

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.
Rachel
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...more
Liz
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...more
Stephen
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.
Mike
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.
Jacob J.
If heaven and hell are this boring, we're doomed either way.
Mark
Oct 12, 2011 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Lucy
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
Hannah
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
Ron
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...more
Jake
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Clare Cannon
Aug 21, 2011 Clare Cannon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young Adults & Adults
Shelves: adults, young-adult
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
Brian Robbins
As much as I love this book, I remain at 4 stars, because, like many of Lewis' books it creaks badly sylewise. But it's very easy to forgive him the very faulty style considering the content which is luminous & so encouraging.
Sometime I'll write a review of this favourite.

Latest read of this much-loved book, makes me give it another star. Despite its stylistic shortcomings the content of the story is studded with so many gems that I find they over-ride minor irritations.
Cleo
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...more
Jay Miklovic
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
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...more
Jon
Sep 13, 2013 Jon rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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'...more
Zachary
I'm not quite sure what I had in mind when I picked this book up, but a full length analogical story definitely was not in my mind when I started. But that really didn't matter, because that's exactly what Lewis wrote in "The Great Divorce".

In it, Lewis used a rather interesting vision of what heaven and hell are (not) like. I say "(not) like" because Lewis admits in his introduction that this was intended from the first to be a moral story, not an exploration of what might be. He explains his p...more
Gerard Kelly
C S Lewis has been much in our minds again of late. 2013 will mark 50 years since his death, and momentum is building towards a host of commemorations. But two of the biggest selling Christian books of recent years have also brought Lewis back into the limelight. Rob Bell's Love Wins raised questions about heaven and hell that put many readers in mind of Lewis. Wm Paul Young's The Shack was also indebted to the master - a debt quite openly acknowledged in Young's follow-up Cross Roads.

And the Le...more
Melinda
Reading this again for my 2014 Lenten reading. So worthwhile!
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If I could give this book 100 stars, I would do so. I read "The Great Divorce" about every 4 to 5 years. It helps clean out my thinking about the here and now, and pulls me into thinking about heaven and what it will really be like. Lewis has such a delightful imagination, and it is humbling to me to realize how much time he must have spent thinking...more
Jesse Broussard
Having re-read this, I cannot wait for the movie (N.D. Wilson is writing the screenplay or something like that). And George MacDonald!!! Yes! Referred to simply as "the teacher" in many places, the noble Scotsman permeates the second half of the book.

Tragic, lovely, heartbreaking and glorious, this book is a theological treatise on the afterlife in the way that Chesterton's Orthodoxy is a description of the Roman Catholic Church, which is to say, not even remotely. It is rather more like a semi-...more
Elaine
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...more
Arminius
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
Bill
One thing that I wish I could find in every novel I read is enlightenment.
Or I'll settle of a fantastic depiction of Heaven or Hell. C.S. Lewis is one of the most known and quotable authors of the past century and I had always meant to read The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity.
One day I was searching for recommendations on novels that depict Hell,
and someone had recommended The Great Divorce. So this provided a great opportunity to read him. This was a very fast read, about passengers o...more
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What character reminds you of yourself and why? 1 12 Jul 02, 2014 01:00AM  
Christian Goodrea...: * The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis 44 47 Nov 22, 2013 02:06PM  
NCBF Mens discussion 6 22 Jul 27, 2013 10:33AM  
Classics and the ...: C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce 12 56 Jan 07, 2013 06:09PM  
  • The Everlasting Man
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
  • Descent Into Hell
  • The Cost of Discipleship
  • Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters
  • On the Incarnation
  • The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
  • Chosen By God: Know God's Perfect Plan for His Glory and His Chil dren
  • How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture
  • When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy
  • The Jesus I Never Knew
  • Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals
  • For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy
  • A Severe Mercy
  • Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis
  • The Knowledge of the Holy
  • Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
  • The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life
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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
More about C.S. Lewis...
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1) The Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6) Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)

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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.” 1075 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.” 427 likes
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