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C.S. Lewis: A Biography

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  411 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
The vast Christian readership will welcome this definitve biography of Lewis--as will scholars and lovers of fantasy. Filled with fresh and frank revelations, C.S. Lewis is the biography of a complex and passionate man--an acclaimed writer of literary merit and bestselling author of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia--whose many faces tell many stories. "An absorbing portrai ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 17th 2002 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published 1990)
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Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would recommend this biography as to anyone who wants to know more about C.S. Lewis. Because of the nature of much of Lewis' writing (in favor of Christianity), many biographers have recast Lewis into an image favored by the biographer's own religious beliefs, so an American fundamentalist biographer ignores Lewis' smoking and drinking, and a British Anglican glosses over the fact that the two women who were Lewis' "life partners" were neither acceptable partners by the standards of Lewis' own ...more
Ancient Weaver
Oct 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in C.S. Lewis the man instead of C.S. Lewis the myth.
Great book for Christians and non-Christians alike. Very accessible and interesting.

I didn't know much about C.S. Lewis the man before I read his autobiographical Surprised by Joy. Until then, I just assumed he led the kind of prosaic, upright (i.e. largely boring) existence you might imagine a conservative, Christian apologist/professor might live.

After having read Lewis' SBJ I was surprised to find this professor to be such a Romantic at heart, and while I enjoyed SBJ very much, I could tel
RE de Leon
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lewisiana, biography
A well written biography of CS Lewis. It should be noted that Lewis' stepson Douglas Gresham, while agreeing that the book is well written and well researched, has noted his disagreement with some of the book's conclusions and depictions.
Chris Fellows
Doubtless I have written many dumb things and on the principle of ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ ought to remain silent. But I am weak.

Here is an extract from a letter quoted in this book:

They keep sheep in Magdalen grove now, and I hear the fleecy care bleating all day long: I am shocked to find that none of my pupils, though they are all acquainted with pastoral poetry, regards them as anything but a nuisance: and one of my colleagues has been heard to ask why sheep have thei
Sarah Camino
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, biography
I'm inclined to believe one owes quite as much to the biographer of one's childhood hero as to that mysterious figure himself. As it is, I found Wilson quite the gentle adoptive guide through the life of C.S. Lewis, no matter that I could not possibly have a higher opinion of the man than when I set out, a thoroughly indoctrinated child hanging on the mane of Aslan.

Wilson paints a touching, if not particularly charming, portrait the man, and one is struck by the significance of certain episodes
Jun 17, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I randomly grabbed this off a library shelf because I am a C.S. Lewis fan. I got about 40 pages into it and decided to quit reading it due to the author's boring and convoluted way of presenting ideas and events. However, I have a bad habit of always having to finish any book that I start, even if I don't like it, so I did finish this (it took me awhile) and I guess I'm glad I read it just for the better understanding of Lewis's life history (although I'm almost positive I could have found a Lew ...more
Jun 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lives
A.N. Wilson would have profited from seven years of bad luck, had he broken all the mirrors in his home as he was drafting this heavily-criticized work on C.S. Lewis. As it is, the light he sheds is unfortunately angled to provide the glaring reflection of an undulating Narcissus, obscuring the dearly-sought treasure lost beneath the waves in the wake of a great man's death.

The best aspects of Wilson's work are as follows: the clarity of his prose; his evident depth of research; his emphasis on
Julie Reed
After reading about the "true" C.S. Lewis, I only love and admire this man more. I wanted to hear about his sins, not just that he was a saint as he has come to be known in Christian circles since his death. He was a real person who had real struggles, personality flaws, and bad habits. He readily admitted that he was a sinner. I enjoyed this book although it was clear that the author didn't agree with some of Lewis's apologetics. If you are writing a biography on someone, shouldn't you remain n ...more
Nov 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apparently, a long time ago I read the first forty pages of this book. Recently, I picked it up on a whim, and I’ve been reading it in most spare moments ever since.

The read has been a thorough pleasure for a couple reasons. For one, Wilson is an excellent narrative writer, smoothly mixing in paraphrases of interviews, quotes from letters and published work, and analysis and commentary that all reveal something about who C.S. Lewis was, both outwardly and inwardly. Another part of my enjoyment
Dave Maddock
Oct 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, inklings
This bio gets a lot of criticism for what is essentially being open about what the author's biases are, not portraying CSL in a pro-Christianity, fawning light, and occasionally engaging in speculation when necessary (eg. the nature of his relationship with Minto). I for one appreciated that the biographer did not appear to be a Christian. There's a million white-washed, mythologized books on CSL written by the fanboy religious. If that's what you want, it is easy to find. If this book leans a l ...more
Anne Homeschooling-Mama
Didn't like this book at all. Really had to plough through to the end, skipping quite a bit in a few places.
The author is extremely unsympathetic towards Christianity. Why a person with such disrespect for the Christian religion would choose to write a biography of a great apologist for the faith is beyond me.
It tainted the book and I was glad to be able to put it down.
Dec 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Tried too hard to be an intellectual. Spent too much time criticizing C. S. Lewis, and his writing, and not enough time on his life. Made leaping assumptions, and presented them as fact. Only took into account the information that agreed with where he wanted to go.
I've read quite a few of CS Lewis' non-fiction books as well as fiction. Meeting the 'real' man was a bit of a surprise. This gives quite a different view from the image I had from his autobiographical books. Interesting.
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This biography is top-rate, and a deep pleasure to read. Beside it is full of intelligent analysis and solid facts, yet it is devoid of any credulity or easy psychoanalyses, although the life of CSL must be so tempting to be casted in the Freudian light. CSL is portrait neither as a fraud nor a saint, but someone with immense intelligence and emotional depth. By reading such excellent book, one is grateful to be echoed by the sentiment expressed so aptly and touchingly by CSL himself -- (page 28 ...more
Kirk Lowery
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
There are two kinds of Lewis biographies: those that seek to depict the "real" person and hagiographies. Wilson falls into the former category. There is no question that Wilson admires Lewis and gives him due credit for his achievements. Lewis was also human -- like the rest of us -- and Wilson does not flinch to confront Lewis' faults. I was a little uncomfortable with the almost Freudian analysis of Lewis' emotional life, for it is difficult to know the inner life of another person. But he is ...more
Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first biography I have read of C.S. Lewis and I found it both interesting and unsettling. There were some details from the early years of his life that I felt I could have done without! Lewis was a more complicated and even troubled individual than I ever realized but this knowledge gave me a new appreciation for him and a greater desire to read some of his works that I have not yet read. I found the connection between the significant events in Lewis' later life and the books he auth ...more
Keith Bell
A brilliant insight into Lewis the man. A.N. Wilson gives you an unpolished Lewis. Here is an account of more than just Lewis' Apologetics and Narnia writings. It reviews his academic and personal life. And, much like other books from Wilson, it left me with a truer sense of the man behind the persona.

Wilson is not a Christian himself but has written other biographies of Jesus and Paul along with a book called "God's Funeral". His biography of Jesus, which recounts his life and teachings, posit
Peter Haslehurst
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a lifelong disciple of C.S. Lewis, he's had a huge influence on my spiritual journey, and I've read (sometimes many times) most of his published books (save perhaps his OHEL volume). I enjoyed this rather iconoclastic biography immensely. Some of the revelations about Lewis's sexual history were slightly unexpected, and Wilson is not afraid to delve into the damaged aspects of his personality. But none of this is done maliciously, but with the aim of humanizing the man. Interestingly, Wilson ...more
Mark Gibbs
A Good read - but occasionally Wilson reads as someone who is just determined to prove a preconceived theory. As a result , Wilson gets carried away with describing Lewis' possible love life- at the cost of describing his life as an academic Christian apologist - for example , the relationship with the Inklings as a group, one of the most long - lasting relationships of Lewis' life) is largely confined to a discussion in a single chapter - WHY? - however , his strained but small family relations ...more
Aug 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Biographys are, by nature, difficult to write with any objectivity, and they are difficult to read without walking away carrying the same passion-or disliking the author. Having read many of Lewis' works and having read several biographies, I would agree with some who mentioned how helpful this was as a "corrective" to a sanitized Lewis. More than that, I felt the author had some wonderful notes on Lewis Christian growth-more insightful than the sanitized versions. The book has its difficulties ...more
Sep 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a timeline of events for everything that happened in C.S. Lewis’ life, this biography is successful. It tells everything noteworthy that happened in the Narnia author’s lifetime, from the early days to the last day of his life. However, I feel like A.N. Wilson’s own additions to the story is where it sags the most. When he tries to dissect something that Lewis did or give it perspective, it often comes off as far too critical or far too assumptive. Regardless, I give him credit for crafting a ...more
Mar 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really struggled with this book, it wasn't boring per se but contained a lot of words that required some chewing on. I wouldn't place it as a contemporary read as it felt a bit dated. I had to renew it numerous times, determined to finish it and was glad I did. Although told in a somewhat impersonal light, one does feel they get to know the life of this private man a little better
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really, really good biography. It's not hagiography, so if you can't stomach the fact that Lewis was human like the rest of us, it's not for you. It reinforced for me just what an incredible intelligence Lewis possessed--and made full use of--as a scholar, Christian, and thinker. Lewis' example makes one not want to waste a minute of intellectual daylight.
Paul Dinger
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wilson's book presents us with Lewis warts and all. The real person we encounter from his wonderful books rather than the one we saw in that movie Shadowlands. He is fully human and yet fully the spiritual leader for millions. I enjoyed every page of this lively biography.
Aug 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I normally think of biographies as terribly dull, but this one surprised me. I think the author had very good insight into the life of C.S. Lewis, which was quite a peculiar sort of life, definitely worth writing (and reading) a biography about.
Sep 28, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, own, nonfiction
I love C.S. Lewis and I enjoy studying his life. I have read several biographies about him and by him. This one was not one of my favorites but I did find parts of it to be interesting. I was skeptical about some of the information and would like to know more about Wilson's credentials.
Dec 30, 2009 rated it liked it
As far as biographies go, he kept personal opinions out of his writing, and I think wrote a fair depiction of Lewis. Always interesting to try to discover what was going in his life that inspired Narnia or Screwtape and so forth.
Aug 22, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is an unsympathetic and acerbic interpretation of Lewis' life which has made me think less of A.N. Wilson ever since, I'm afraid! Probably a prejudice and I daresay he made some perceptive comments and unearthed some truths about Lewis which were unpalatable.
Douglas Wilson
Good, actually.
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Poor bio of Lewis. Readable and entertaining, but inaccurate, bombastic, and shrill. Read Sayer, McGrath, and Hooper.
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Andrew Norman Wilson is an English writer and newspaper columnist, known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views. He is an occasional columnist for the Daily Mail and former columnist for the London Evening Standard, and has been an occasional contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, The Spectator and The Observer.
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