If you don't know the plot of the Narnia books, I'd be surprised, but basically it follows (for the most part) the Pevensie siblings and their journey...moreIf you don't know the plot of the Narnia books, I'd be surprised, but basically it follows (for the most part) the Pevensie siblings and their journeys into a land called Narnia, the classic fantasy alternate universe and biblical architype haven. The kids learn many lessons during their grand adventures, some of which are actually useful. Overall, they are endearing fairy tales...
(I am very, very angry that the site didn't allow me to review this book as the first in the series. The entire "preferred reading order" is absolutely ridiculous, and the publisher's reasons for changing the order posthumously are innane. I'd rather not write a whole essay about it - go ahead and look it up on Wikipedia if you're interested. As far as I'm concerned this is the first one. It is the one in which we along with the children are introduced to Narnia and every one published after it follows the story in a way a reader can relate with ans appreciate. Just so everyone knows I an reviewing the 1970 Collier Book edition of LWW.)
I just got done rereading this one - it's the first time I've picked it up in many years. It's a breeze to get through, which is sad because I remember being very proud of myself for getting through it in the fourth grade. But oh well.
I'd rather not do a total movie-to-book comparison, but... and don't crucify me... (haha)... the movie deals with this story better. It is more exciting, the characters evolve, everyone's reaction is more believable - and yet the original story is entirely intact. I love the story, don't get me wrong, but reading the written work again after watching to movie... it just seems like bare bones. I'd forgotten how sparse the writing is.
Another thing I had forgotten is just how metafictive (new word I think) the whole thing is. Lewis spends an awful lot of time referencing the fact that he is writing this book, which is slightly off-putting for modern readers. That would be forgiven, really, if he didn't use it to NOT describe so many things. I suppose if you are a very young child and he claims that something is so frightening he dares not describe it to you, it forces that child to use her imagination in order to fill in the blanks. Yet the successful descriptions of similar things in, say, a series as popular as the Harry Potter books makes one wonder if it wasn't just a cop out or cultural handicap. Yet there are rare places where this tecnique seems to work in his favor, such as places where he is describing a visual sort of magic. He will write "I suppose you have seen" something, and then elaborate that this is how it looked, somewhat. This will give most kids a really clear picture of what is happening, making this story easily read aloud to children as young as (I would say) five.
There are also very interesting parts where I find myself connecting to what's going on on a very different level, and it is because Lewis addressed the reader that one allows oneself to feel this way. The best example is the aftermath of the great battle, when everyone is heading to Cair Paravel to see the children crowned. Here the sea is described with such excitement it does seem as if you are coming to the palace yourself.
"The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and sea weed, and the smell of the sea, and long miles of bluish-green waves breaking forever and ever on the beach. And, oh, the cry of the sea-gulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?"
This one line, innocently placed. "Can you remember?" There is not one moment in your mind what I should be remembering, or from what, because I was there. Can you remember, because Lewis is desperately trying to get the message across that we were all there, and we have all heard it and it will only take a quick jog of the memory to remember.
Now I am not Christian - in fact I am a Wiccan, and have always been distainful of Christians who do whatever they can to convert me. Lay off already. But that does not mean that I don't know a good story when I read one. Whether or not Lewis is talking about Jesus (and... yeah... I know he is) that feeling was a very good one. There are some things you just have to let go, you know? It isn't the worst thing in the world to have your kids know that you shouldn't sacrifice your family for Turkish Delight. Er. As it were. Just like it isn't the worst thing to have your kids put faith in themselves, science, and other human endevours, as Phillip Pullman is teaching via The Golden Compass etc. In fact, the less you stress out about what philosphies your kids are exposed to early in life the less angsty and rebellious they'll be later on.
But I digress. What is important to note is a note of sexism within this novel. (I did not notice any racism - at least not as blatent as the misogynism - but there have been cases brought up to that affect as well. Once again, Wiki it.) When Father Christmas brings the children their presents, he tells the girls to only use their weapons if they truly need to, and never in battle. When Lucy says she may be brave enough, Santa says "Battle is ugly when women fight." ...As opposed to how pretty it is when men go at it? Just an example. Later in the series it becomes more apparent that Lewis felt that there was a "place" for women. We do have to remember the time in which it was written and simply empower our girls by other means. I honestly don't think that this series will instill in children's minds the idea that boys are better than girls.
In short, read this because it's a classic, and a very good read-aloud. But really... watch the movie too. I think it does a fantastic job of sprucing up an old fairy tale. (less)