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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

Surprised by Joy

by C .S. Lewis

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism

“This book aims at telling the story of my conversion (C.S. Lewis) and is not a general autobiography, still fewer Confessions like those of St. Augustine or Rousseau,” C.S. tells a wonderful, heartfelt story about what his life was like at the beginning especially religiously and spirituality. He writes with the flow of an expert craftsman and uses the words as if one were eating Godiva Chocolate. The book has a fine, smooth taste to it. Lewis starts with his childhood in Belfast, then describes his boarding school years and his youthful atheism in England, moves to his experience in World War I, and ends in Oxford. Through it, all Lewis explores his lifelong search for joy and its role in pointing him toward God.

Lewis describes his father as a man whose temperament was mercurial, his spirits rose as easily as they fell, and his forgiveness was as thorough-going as his displeasure. He was often the most jovial and companionable of parents. He could ‘play the fool’ as well as any of us, and had no regard for his dignity, ‘conned no state’. I could not, of course, at that age see what good company (by adult standards) he was, his humor being of the sort that requires at least some knowledge of life for its full appreciation; I merely basked in it as in fine weather. And all the time there was the sensuous delight of being at home, the delight of luxury—‘civilization’, as we called it. He was a temperamental widower, still prostrated by the loss of his wife, and must be a very good and wise man indeed if he makes no mistakes in bringing up two noisy and mischievous schoolboys who reserve their confidence wholly for each other.

Further, Lewis states that as a young Atheist he could not guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. You must not do, you must not even try to do, the will of the Father unless you are prepared to ‘know of the doctrines’. All my acts, desires and thoughts were to be brought into harmony with universal Spirit. For the first time, I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. The God whom I had at last acknowledged was one and was righteous.

Lewis is probably best known for his Narnia books for the last couple of decades. The book “Surprised by Joy” is a delight that should be read.

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