book review: the lion the witch and the wardrobe

I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for my SFF reader advisory class. Now, those who’ve ever had occasion to discuss C.S. Lewis with me know my story about having Narnia ruined for me by a terrible fucking school librarian (who was probably just a volunteer and I shouldn’t harbour this resentment from a quarter-century ago but whatever) who told small Justin “You know, that story’s actually all about Jesus.” Even then I thought that was sneaky and underhanded and terrible and it tainted the way I read anything by Lewis. So. My biases out of the way.

Rereading it now I’m amazed by how quickly everything happens. It’s just bam bam bam. All of these iconic scenes are things I’d assumed were just shorthand for all the things that happen in the story (Edmund eats magic Turkish Delight), but they aren’t. Pretty much everything I remembered is exactly what the story is. I may not be explaining this super well. I assumed that I’d simplified it in my memory, but I hadn’t. Everything is remarkably simple and straight to the point. I disagree with the point and I take issue with how important the nature of good creatures vs bad creatures is, and the fact that none of the characters have any real agency of their own bothers me, but at least it doesn’t spend 800 pages trying to get there. This is one of those times that the story is better than the movie because of what it isn’t dwelling on. The battles are all off the page until Aslan returns. We hear about Edmund being clever, and about the big battles but we don’t have to read about every terrible clash of the sword.

I’d also forgotten that at the end the kids become kings and queens and talk like you pretend middle ages people talk before they stumble back through the wardrobe to become children again. The whole thing is very much a fairy tale, and I can appreciate it as such. Even if I don’t like it.

(Seriously though, CS Lewis’ ideas of class and the value of a person having nothing to do with what they do really bother me.)

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