The conversion of C.S. Lewis is fairly well known thanks to Lewis’ own narrative telling of it in Surprised by Joy. But those of us who have read Surprised by Joy are left with the sense that Lewis’ autobiography has left out some of the context–to say nothing of his life afterward. The second volume in what will be a three-part biography of C.S. Lewis fills in these gaps admirably well. Harry Lee Poe’s new book The Making of C.S. Lewis: From Atheist to Apologist covers Lewis’ academic career, his conversion, and his first Christian writings. Following on Poe’s work Becoming C.S. Lewis (reviewed here), we have another excellent entry in what is certain to be the definitive work on Lewis.
The Making of C.S. Lewis covers the life of Lewis from 1918 to 1945–so much is obvious from the subtitle. This era, as I’ve already noted, includes Lewis’ conversion, academic work, and first apologetic work (both radio and writings). The Making of C.S. Lewis is also well-written and a fascinating read. Covering in detail his movement to theism and then to Christianity (by way of Plato, J.R.R. Tolkien, and several other important influences), we get a focused look on Lewis’ intellectual, public, and private life. We also see the development of his academic works as well, his first Christian work (The Pilgrim’s Regress—not a great book, in my opinion; fortunately Lewis kept writing), and his first apologetic works shaped by his radio ministry. This book is a must-read for those who love Miracles, The Problem of Pain, The Abolition of Man, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and, of course, Mere Christianity. That is to say, this is the part of Lewis’ life where his greatest writings are composed and published.
In The Making of C.S. Lewis, Poe also engages with other Lewis biographies concerning some of the more controversial and mysterious aspects of Lewis’ life. (Just what was Lewis’ relationship with Mrs. Moore, anyway?) I suspect we’ll see more of that in the third and final volume, which as far as I’m concerned can’t come out soon enough.