“Becoming C. S. Lewis” by Union University Professor of Faith and Cultural Studies Harry Lee Poe is the first in a new three volume biography of C. S. Lewis’s first twenty years. The book outlines how Lewis’s early life experiences and books he read, particularly the books on old Norse mythologies, began to form the thinking that he would adopt the rest of his life and subsequently lead him to faith in Christ. His primary development started with Lewis losing his mother at 9 years old and subsequently embarking on a rich if sometimes difficult educational experience amidst boarding schools and tudors. The book delves into the beginning of Lewis’s long friendship with Arthur Greeves and his early educational experiences, particularly his time as a tutor under W. T. Kirkpatrick who molded Lewis’s intellect and directed him toward an initial atheism and rationalist thinking. It also includes much discussion of his relationship with his best friend for most of his life, his brother Warnie, and his adopted mother Janie Moore who he took care of until the end of her life and had a bit of a strange relationship with. Subsequent books in the trilogy will build on this first volume and explore how his thinking came to develop toward Christianity into eventually becoming one of the great Christian apologists.
This was overall an excellent book, perhaps the best biography of the many out there, if one is prepared to tackle the lengthy detail about some of the influences on his life. For example, there are detailed descriptions of Wagner operas, Homer’s Iliad and detailed summaries of other books such as “The Faerie Queene”, all of which greatly influenced Lewis. This excessive detail, which added little to an understanding of Lewis, is a flaw for the general reader but in some cases, particularly in the discussion of Wagner’s “The Ring”, the discussion is novel and could be of great interest to certain readers. The author has spent much of his academic career studying both C. S. Lewis and his literary friends and his detailed knowledge of Lewis along with unpublished archival work shows in this book. The book is very well written and engaged my interest throughout. I give it my highest recommendation for fans of C. S. Lewis, such as myself, and I look forward to reading the other volumes in the series.