Book Review: The Great Divorce

Book Review: The Great Divorce

Author: C. S. Lewis

Publisher: Harper One ISBN: 9780060652921

The Great Divorce: A Dream

Every single time I read C. S. Lewis, I am captured by his timeless brilliance. I often wonder what it would have been like to have casual conversation with him. I really enjoy his wit and use of irony in his writing; I think they especially show through in works like The Screwtape Letters and this allegorical piece, The Great Divorce.

I thought the preface was a fitting introduction to the story, but even more, it was thought-provoking material for meditation in itself.

“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. We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those two into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. Even on the biological level life is not like a river, 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 from other good.”— C.S. Lewis; from the preface of the Great Divorce

This story is full of profound imagery, invoking thought with every depiction, every twist, and every turn. Lewis states that his tale is not meant to be a theological treatise, he writes in his preface; “I beg readers to remember that this is a fantasy.” Still, there is much to ponder with regard to the Christian journey, fantasy or not.

The basics of the story follow a busload of people journeying from hell or purgatory to the foothills of heaven. The cast of characters is vast and portrays a broad-spectrum of human failings, selfishness, self-righteousness, and much more.

[spoiler alert]

The plotline centers upon the opportunity that each of the persons from the bus has to release themselves from what keeps them in bondage to hell. Each person is confronted with their brokenness or their false identity and given the chance to surrender it for entry to heaven. Each of these encounters can serve as an adventure into our own self-examination. The details surrounding each of these encounters is the brilliance of Lewis; that is all I will say, so no more of the story is spoiled on my account.

I believe this, as most of Lewis’ works, should be on every Christian’s “must read” list. I think it is a great book for personal reading, but could be well served and enjoyed even more when read and discussed within a group.

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