Book Review: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

I’ve read several books by C.S. Lewis before – Mere Christianity, The Four Loves, The Screwtape Letters, and The Chronicles of Narnia — and found him a talented writer good at gently guiding the reader through Christian theology.  The Great Divorce (1945) is a work similar to The Screwtape Letters in which Lewis uses a fantastical story as a way to break common misconceptions about a concept, in this case Heaven and Hell.

The story is much like Dante’s Divine Comedy as we follow a narrator who dreams of visiting Heaven and Hell/Purgatory.  The narrator and many others are ghostly beings who by clinging to their own desires condemn themselves to staying in the joyless city that is Hell.  The shining figures of those already in Heaven try to convince the ghosts to accept the joy of God and join them in Heaven.  At risk of showing that I didn’t get it, I have to say I found this book fun to read.

Favorite passages:

Hell is a state of mind — ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind — is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakable remains. – p. 65

That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke! There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living. – p. 95

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

  1. I read the book and was really impressed with how well written it was and how the different scenarios of the ghosts apply to life


  2. The thing that strikes me about this book as well as The Screwtape Letters is the way Lewis brilliantly illustrates the way we humans can rationalize away our sins and even make ourselves think we’re doing the right thing when we follow our own path instead of God’s.


    now i did read it in high school which probably wasnt the brightest idea because it was really complicated but in the end it still didnt make sense!! :(


  4. I’m on the first chapters and I really came in here to see if I was making any sense of it all-I still don’t know if I like it but I’m going to keep on reading.


    1. I discovered it in college and have loved it for almost 40 years. It was written in WW2, so it was already ‘old’ in those days.

      It does start slow. Where it picks up is when the passengers on the bus (the ‘Ghosts’) meet those they knew from the mortal life (the ‘Spirits’). The Ghosts can satay…if they want to. The catch is, they have to be willing to give up some old grudge or resentment…and most don’t. Some woman is mad at her husband and her brother. Her son died as a kid and she turned the rest of her life into a bereavement. And she dumped on her family when they wanted to move on. She’s pissed that it was her brother who came to meet her. Her son is waiting…but she cops an attitude then and there. She almost demands that God give her back her son so she can have him with her in Hell. Very chilling. One Ghost actually tries flirting with the Spirits and then gives up when they don’t swoon over her.

      Hope you got through it.


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