(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

To countless children (and their parents), C.S. Lewis is known as the author of the Narnia books, the popular fantasy series the first two books of which have recently been adapted for television. To an equally wide audience, Lewis is known as a Christian apologist, author of THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, MERE CHRISTIANITY, and other books in this vein with cumulative sales in the millions. Finally, to students of English literature Lewis is known as a superb critic whose works combine deep erudition with a pleasurable readability rarely encountered in the thickets of academic literary criticism.

One of the key challenges for a biographer is to show how these three Lewises were intimately related to one another, though for much of his life Lewis kept these diverse aspects of himself in distinct compartments. In A.N. Wilson, Lewis has finally found a biographer equal to the task. Wilson himself is a writer who appears in various guises. Best known as a prolific novelist and biographer (his excellent biography of Leo Tolstoy appeared in 1988), Wilson has also published essays and criticism, a children’s story, and a book in the spirit of Lewis’s apologetics, HOW CAN WE KNOW?, about the fundamental questions of Christian belief. Wilson views his subject from a position of knowledge and sympathy, but he will have nothing of the sanctimony that has infected so much writing about Lewis. Indeed, as Wilson notes, since Lewis’s death in 1963 a veritable cult has...

(The entire section is 450 words.)