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