The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (Macmillan, 1945), 160 pages
The narrator boards a bus in a grey, nondescript neighborhood and arrives at the edge of Heaven. What follows is a take on what the afterlife could look like.
I had never been terribly interested in reading this book, because I thought it was nonfiction. Then I saw it referenced by a friend on Facebook a few months ago, which piqued my interest. And when I saw it listed as suggested reading for Hutchmoot, it was decided.
I fear some of the book’s allusions went over my head; Lewis referenced Milton frequently, and I’ve not read Milton. I’d probably also be better off if I’d read The Divine Comedy recently. And when he meets George MacDonald, some of his work is obliquely but specifically referenced, and I’m not familiar with whatever he referred to there, either. I’ve got three MacDonald books to read this month, though …
From the preface, I knew I was going to love this book. It didn’t *quite* live up to my expectations set in that moment, but it was still great.
After reading it, I can now understand why it sometimes gets shelved with the theology books rather than in fiction. The fictional story is more than a frame for Lewis’s What Is Heaven discussion, particularly in that it doesn’t break down and is never abandoned, but in some ways it’s not much more than a frame for that theological meat.
“They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”~The Great Divorce, page 67, George MacDonald speaking
This is a pretty fun book. It took much longer to read than its slight 160-page frame would suggest — it’s dense, not spun sugar — but I can’t hold that against it. It’s a book that made me think. I don’t think The Great Divorce will knock The Screwtape Letters and The Space Trilogy out of the top spots as my most-loved works by Lewis, but I’m glad I read it.
If you’re interested in Heaven or a fan of Lewis, this is a must-read. Outside of those quite narrow parameters, I’m sure, are many others who would enjoy this book.
Surely I don’t need to tell you about C.S. Lewis, right?
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