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Lenten Lands

[Lenten Lands] Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
by Douglas H. Gresham
Published by HarperCollins, 1988
Amazon.co.uk: paperback
Amazon.ca: paperback
Amazon.com: paperback
Christianbook.com: paperback
Recommended by: Greg Slade

There's a strange phenomenon which happens when people start to talk about C.S. Lewis. People compete to prove how well they knew him. Once, in criticism of a review I wrote of one of Lewis' books, I received a letter which listed the number of letters the letter writer had received from Lewis. Apparently, the point was to say that since she had more letters from Lewis than I did (which wouldn't be hard, since I was only three years old when he died), that made her an expert on Lewis, and my opinions on his work counted for nothing. You can see the same dynamic in books about Lewis, as some of those same books seem to spend as much time (if not more) establishing how well the author knew Lewis as talking about Lewis himself. (It all seems rather childish, really, "I knew Lewis better than you did! Nyah, nyah, na, nyah, nyah!")

So it's refreshing to come across a work like Lenten Lands. Gresham, Lewis' stepson, can certainly claim to trump all other claimants in the "I knew Lewis better than you did" game. Instead, he states up front, "This is not primarily a book about C.S. Lewis; it is a book about D.H. Gresham." (p. ix.) Yet, in the end, where other authors claim to talk about Lewis and end up talking about themselves, Gresham ends up telling us things about Lewis which nobody else would or could. Even when he tells us something which Lewis himself found extremely embarrassing, such as the time Lewis snapped at a nasty tourist at Mycenae, Lewis ends up looking better, rather than worse. You have been a fortunate man to have known Lewis so well, Douglas. Thank you for sharing part of him with us.

Perhaps the most important part of the book is the darkest: Gresham is scathing in his portrayal of those who rushed in near the end of Lewis' life to take advantage of his wealth and fame for their own self-aggrandisement. It has been too easy, perhaps, to think that Lewis' sweet reasonableness and generosity must have rubbed off on all those around him. In fact, sin is everywhere. (May, 1999)


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