I honestly struggled to read C. S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” back in the ’90s. His writing was very trying since it was verbose and not succinct. When my sister bought this book back (from England), I hesitated to pick it up. How exciting could this be? I guess I was really bored at that time because I eventually read the book. Mind you, this is the last book of the Narnia series; so I came into it with absolutely no background story, no build up of themes, and no knowledge of the Narnia world.
Fortunately, the first chapter of the book was targeted for new readers to the series. This was a good move as it allowed me to enter into Narnia through the interaction between two characters – the ape and the donkey. I was intrigued by the pacing – it was faster than what I expected. Pauline Baynes’ illustration for the inside of the book helped tremendously. Although unfamiliar with the backstory, I quickly turned page after page, as the theme of confusion and growing darkness built. It was not until I came to the turning point of the
I highly recommend reading this book. In fact, after reading the whole series (because of this stellar book) my favourite is still “The Last Battle”. The theme of the book matches the theme of the Bible – what we call the apocalyptic theme. Even if you are not a Christian, there is the striking parallel with today’s events – of rising conflict which are caused by differences in beliefs. I particularly liked the role of a particular group (I will not name them here) who chooses the “middle-ground”, only to become another player in the violent conflict!
A note of caution though: there are certainly some Christian doctrines conveyed in the book, however, some are entirely Lewis’ own interpretation and belief – that is not orthodox or evangelical. Let that be the only caution I put on a book that is commonly categorised under “Christian Fiction – for Children”. The snippet that I truly remember, and often used to illustrate, to others:
“Aslan,” said Lucy through her tears, “could you – will you – do something for these poor Dwarfs?”
“Dearest,” said Aslan, “I will show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do.” He came close to the Dwarfs and gave a low growl: low, but it set all the air shaking. But the Dwarfs said to one another, “Hear that? That’s the gang at the other end of the stable. Trying to frighten us. They do it with a machine of some kind. Don’t take any notice. They won’t take us in again!”
Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said “Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.” But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said:
“Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”
“You see,” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”Chapter 13, pages 140-141, from the 8th Impression printed in 1983
The dwarfs portrayed here is frightfully similar to many today.
You SHOULD buy this book if you have never tried the Narnia Series, or you need a book to help a teenager ‘grow up’ and think of ‘greater life issues’. On Bookdepository (where you get FREE shipping), it is listed for around RM30… this is much CHEAPER than many local bookshops in Malaysia.
Hope you enjoy the book! I give it an 8.5/10.