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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surface fantasy is framework for peak into human heart.
Lewis' "The Great Divorce" is a book that I have owned for years but only recently read. I don't know why it took me so long, but now that I have read it I want to read it again all the more. I guess that is a sign of a good book. Many of you reading this review are no doubt familiar with Lewis the philosopher, theologian, writer, and speaker. Suffice to say he...
Published on Oct. 2 2002 by Andy Williamson

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very difficult to understand
I read this book as part of a book club for the summer. I was not familiar with C.S. Lewis's work. I found this book overwhelmingly difficult to understand. On the surface it's an interesting take on Heaven & Hell, but underneath trying to understand the symbolism and the true message I found to be impossible without the input of my book club friends.
Published 11 months ago by Carley


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surface fantasy is framework for peak into human heart., Oct. 2 2002
This review is from: Great Divorce (Paperback)
Lewis' "The Great Divorce" is a book that I have owned for years but only recently read. I don't know why it took me so long, but now that I have read it I want to read it again all the more. I guess that is a sign of a good book. Many of you reading this review are no doubt familiar with Lewis the philosopher, theologian, writer, and speaker. Suffice to say he remains one of the most esteemed and brilliant thinkers and writers of the last century.
This book easily compares to the best of his work. The idea of using a fantasy-land constructed around a bus trip to try to give us some look into the unknown is pure Lewis. A dark, desolate, rainy bus stop gives us a mental picture of hell that reminds me of the films "Blade Runner" and "Dark City". The descriptions of a heaven-like place given in the book remind me of the house of Elrond and the elvish city in the recent "Lord of the Rings". The book essentially follows the author as he tours both of these worlds-seemingly seperated by a million miles. With George MacDonald as his guide, the author witnesses many interactions between those in the 'heavenly' world and those arriving from hell on a bus. The heavenly beings-who are solid-attempt to convince the spirits aboard the tour to remain with them and allow themselves to be made whole by the overseer of the heavenly realm.
Unfortunately, most of the spirits prefer to deal with their various troubles 'some other time' or not at all. Wishing to remain as they are, they refuse the help of the heavenly beings. We witness spirits literally and figuratively in chains of pity, anger, pride, arrogance, and fear. The answer to all of these maladies is offered to them with outstretched arms, they need only accept the gift.
The most powerful exchange in the book comes between a spirit who arrives with a little red lizard on his shoulder. (Readers of Lewis will recognize this from his earlier essay 'Horrid Red Things' in "God in the Dock"). The lizard embodies the spirit's struggles with lust; it continuously goads him on. As the spirit comes into contact with one of the heavenly angels, the angel states that if the man will only ask him to, he will kill the lizard. The lizard immediately warns the spirit that the angel is capable of this and reminds the spirit that if this is allowed, he-the spirit-will never enjoy the pleasures of lust and sin again. The spirit hems and haws, asking the angel many questions. Each time the angel responds "...MAY I KILL IT?"
It is heartbreaking to read as the spirit decides to allow the angel-hands hovering just around the neck of the lizard-to kill it, only to relent when he realizes that he himself will be hurt in the process of obtaining freedom. The angel responds: "I never said it would not hurt you, only that it would not kill you." This seems eerily similar to so many of us in the 'real' world who, when offered freedom thru Christ and the solutions to our myriad of social, emotional, spiritual, and physical struggles, raise an angry hand to God and reject His offer. How many of us want our problems to be fixed, our wounds healed and our pain dealt with-without any pain!? How many of us prefer to hold onto the very things that are destroying us? Keeping us from God?
A brilliant treatise on the ability of the human-in this case the spirit of departed humans-to rationalize and justify our behavior, whether it be an overbearing, controlling mother, a frightened woman, a man diseased with lust, those consumed by career, or any of the other characters in the book. Look deeper because there is a message for everyone in this book. A powerful allegory of the struggle to make the Gospel known to others.
Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Actually deserves 4.5 stars, July 18 2001
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This review is from: Great Divorce (Paperback)
I have not read anything by Lewis for many years, and what I do remember of Lewis' work is very different from what I read in The Gread Divorce. While I am not a Christian and therefore not exactly sure how I feel about heaven and hell, this book was inspiring. The story is unlike any other I have read before, and I think accurately represents people's attitudes about heaven and hell. According to Lewis, "All that are in hell, choose it." Kind of a radical idea! (For anyone who is interested, the title of the novel is in reference to Blake's The Marraige of Heaven and Hell.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter Joy, June 8, 2000, Aug. 31 2012
By 
Mike London "MAC" (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Great Divorce (Paperback)
[NOTE: I am reissuing my Amazon.com reviews on Amazon.co.uk. This review was originally published on Amazon.com June 8, 2000]

"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, `Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says `Thy will be done'."

This is a quote from this little volume, and effectively sums up the entire book in that one sentence. THE GREAT DIVORCE, like Lewis's TILL WE HAVE FACES, is his song of songs, his great achievement. Tolkien's was LORD OF THE RINGS, Adams' WATERSHIP DOWN, Sinclair Lewis' MAIN STREET. These novels are generally regarded as their major works. This little book, published in a little periodical called The Guardian, is one such book. (It was this periodical that Lewis's classic book THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS also appeared). Sadly, SCREWTAPE, though excellent in and of itself, is often given much more credit than this, which is a deeper work (and to those who know THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, know what a feat that is).

Perhaps one reason that this work is such an excellent little volume is its length of gestation: it was concieved in 1931 and written in 1944. Insipred by a sermon found in Jeremy Taylor's WORKS, suggested such a premise as to think, or take, the absuridity of damned souls getting a real refreshment from hell. Also another source was the fourth centru Latin poet named Prudentius Aurelius Clemens (his contribution can be found in "Hymn for the Lighting of the Lamp). Assuredly, one of the reasons that it took so long to be written (the first known written account is a diary entry by his brother Warnen on Paril 15, 1932) is he had not had it visualized. In terms of inspiration his fiction arose from "seeing pictures" in his mind. (Example: One of his images he received when he was about 16, and it was a faun with parcels in one hand and an umbrella in the other, standing in a wintery, snow laden forest).

Much of this short little novel has a direct comparison or parellel to Dante's DIVINE COMEDY. Just like Beatrice to Dante, so also was George MacDonald to C. S. Lewis. MacDonald was almost a Universalist. He believed most of the world populace would submit and enter into joy, and know God's love. A lot of this would occur after death. According to Sayer, Lewis did not believe this, but thought it was a possibility (much my view on purgatory). What Lewis had to do was to rectify this belief with the others of purgatory, hell, heaven, predestination, damnation, etc. How he did so was a stroke of genius: he made hell and purgatory the same place. To those who would leave and give up a vice, it was only purgatory; but to those who were determined to keep their wickedness, instead of entering into joy, were damned. To enter into Heaven, the only prerequiste was to give up a vice. That was all. Some lust, some apostasty, some selfishness and false love (the mother Pam for her son Michael). Just like Dante, Lewis has an Apostate Anglican bishop in there.

One of the things that he has done most brillantly is the potrayal of the Platonic belief that the essence of something is more real than the thing itself. Virture is more real that the vitrue that is practiced. Everything in God is much more real and tangible than hell, and Lewis does this marvelously. A device he borrowed from a writer whose name was unknown to him, Lewis made everything very, very real, and the damned men and women were but ghosts in that heavenly place. Each had an accompaning Spirit, one who has surrendered to God. In that place, the ones saved are real and can bend the grass and walk and swim, but always traveling further up and further in (to borrow a Narnian phrase, although it equally applies here). To aid the damned, the real, the saved, must go back and forsake their journey for a time, to aid those that will.

One of the grandest scenes is toward the very last, in which a lady named Sarah is seen. In this, another of his master's ideals is expressed. Sarah Smith is no great woman by earth's standards, but she is so close to God, everyone she meets she changes for the better. God wants to use you, not only for his own intimate purposes, but for you also to update and bring the quality of the life for others around you to a much better place. Her whole train of follows is transformed by her love, because she allows God to work through her, and submitted to her; in turn, she transforms others, because she is a yielded vessel. Macdonald states of her "There's joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life". Likewise, because of Lewis being yielded to God, this book has a similar effect (as, perhaps, all of his books do -- I cannot say all because I have not read all).

Ultimately, the entire point of this beautiful little book is that there could be no damnation without free choice. God made us to fellowship with us, not to damn us to hell. We are to enter into joy - but because we live in a fallen world, we might choose to hang onto some vice instead of entering into joy. Joy, that grand and beautiful intimacy with the Lord, real satisfying water that will forever quench your thirst, that is what C. S. Lewis is about. Let us not choose to stay in Hell. But one must understand this - Lewis is not advocating there is such a thing as bus rides to hell. The novel is, of course, but a dream. It is no way an examination of what lies after we die, although it does give thought to MacDonald's view on Universalism, though Lewis did not hold that view himself. Enter into joy, dear child, and meet Christ.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very difficult to understand, Aug. 19 2013
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This review is from: The Great Divorce (Kindle Edition)
I read this book as part of a book club for the summer. I was not familiar with C.S. Lewis's work. I found this book overwhelmingly difficult to understand. On the surface it's an interesting take on Heaven & Hell, but underneath trying to understand the symbolism and the true message I found to be impossible without the input of my book club friends.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite Exploration of a Heavy Topic, March 4 2014
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Great Divorce (Paperback)
C. S. Lewis is one of the best-known Christian writers and apologists. His works have made a huge impact on generations of readers, and have brought Christian thought and doctrines to many who otherwise would not have shown any interest in them. In “The Great Divorce” he tackles one of the darkest topics in all of Christian doctrine: the topic of Hell.

C. S. Lewis’ views and writings were always to a large extent designed to shake up the comfortable complacency of the society around him. This particularly holds for the Christians who were all too happy to give up the hard and sometimes uncomfortable tenants of their faith and embrace the ever more libertine ethos of the modern culture. Two of the most salient points that Lewis is trying to get across in “Great Divorce” are 1. Hell is real, and 2. Hell is not just reserved for the most egregiously evil people. Chances are, if you are a Christian today you’ll get more criticism and ridicule for the belief in these two points than almost any other tenants of Christianity.

This book more resembles “The Screwtape Letters” than any of the other of Lewis’ apologetic works. “The Great Divorce” showcases Lewis’ narrative skills and imagination, in addition to his deep theological insights. Presenting a clear and convincing vision of the afterlife can be exceedingly challenging. Most literary and artistic attempts fall short, as the picture they paint more often than not end up being cheesy and sentimentalist. This could be one of the reasons why today it’s much more likely to see the afterlife depicted in humorous cartoons or with a heavy dose of irony – those tropes help shield the author from potential ridiculing. Authors who manage to depict the afterlife in a convincing and profound ways – Dante, Milton – are almost invariably the giants of arts and literature. No one will ever put Lewis in the same category as those giants, but nonetheless he manages to depict a very believable and thought-provoking vision of what Hell is all about. It’s a vision that is in many ways at odds with most theological schools of thought – something that is mentioned quite explicitly in the book in fact – but it’s not entirely incompatible with them. This book will not please either a very strict fundamentalist Protestant or a punctiliously scrupulous Catholic, but for almost everyone else it will be a neat exercise in theological speculation. In fact, it’s much more than that – “The Great Divorce” is a powerful reminder of the Last Things and a call for all of us to a life of holiness. That’s, ultimately, what lays behind all of theological speculations on Heaven and Hell.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating study on the human condition, July 18 2013
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This review is from: The Great Divorce (Kindle Edition)
C.S. Lewis is an excellent storyteller (as I already knew from the Chronicles of Narnia); this book does not disappoint! Not so much about heaven & hell, but about how people may choose to go one way or the other. Pulled me in right from the beginning, and the ending really surprised me! I'd recommend this for anyone.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This CS Lewis at his most readable (outside of Narnia), June 16 2013
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This review is from: The Great Divorce (Kindle Edition)
I really like CS Lewis. I especially liked the Great Divorce as it combines a nice story line with a lot to think about. It is very readable, and I have gone back to it a few times over the years for a re-read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, Jan. 5 2013
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This review is from: Great Divorce (Paperback)
I have read much of C.S. Lewis writings and I would say that this is one of my favorite books. Although I read a lot I prefer the shorter books and for this reason this is one of my favorites. It is short yet rich. I recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Received What I Expected, Aug. 16 2012
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This review is from: Great Divorce (Paperback)
C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" is a wonderful 'make-believe' story; one that I have cherished ever since I read it over a quarter century ago. I very much enjoyed receiving it, via Amazon.com, reading it and applying it's concepts to my life. Although it took a few weeks to have it delivered the waiting was worth it. Thank you Amazon.com for facilitating this. Respectfully... brasilshortstop
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars For Christian allegory fans only, Jan. 21 2002
By 
Paul Doland (Houston, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Great Divorce (Paperback)
Okay, I admit that I probably shouldn't even be reviewing this book, I'm not in the target audience. For those who are in the book's target audience, I'm sure it is a wonderful book. If the description "enjoys Christian allegory" fits you, ignore my bad review and read the other reviews. All I'm saying is that for me, it was so boring I couldn't hardly finish it. I only read it because a Christian friend gave it to me.
Just a few other small comments. In his introduction, Lewis finds it necessary to remind the reader that it is allegory, and he is not trying in any way to factually describe the afterlife. In fact he says, "encouraging factual curiosity of the afterlife is the last thing I want to do". Well, um, then what's the point? Though I maintain being agnostic, but I have to admit I lean more towards atheism. One of the reasons being that no one has presented, to my mind anyway, a plausible scenerio for what the afterlife is really like. An infinite life where there is presumably no pain or evil, would have to be inherently very different from our mortal existence. So different if such does exist, then it seems difficult to imagine any purpose to this very limited existence we have here. After all, a billion years from now, are you going to be sitting around heaven talking about the time your aunt died or something? I'm wondering if the reason Lewis doesn't want to "encourage factual curiosity" about the afterlife is because that when one tries to ponder it factually, it seems rather implausible.
I think that a Christian would say that a quote late in the book more or less sums up what Lewis is trying to say. Lewis says that "there are two kinds of people, those that say to God 'thy will be done' and those that God says to them, 'thy will be done.'" Well, don't take the following statement as "bashing" Christians, I am fully aware that by and large, Christians are fine people. But of course there are those that claim to be Christians that don't seem like such fine people. My only point in this is that I basically reject that there is some intrinsic difference between those that choose to be Christians and those that don't. The point of the book is to try to show this supposed intrinsic difference, an intrisic difference would would last for eternity, which I reject exists. I reject Lewis' premise. I'm just in general not a big fan of allegory. And even Lewis himself says it says nothing about the real form of heaven and hell. So for me, it was a boring, useless waste of time. But if you are a Christian and like allegory, well, ignore me, I'm sure you'll like the book.
NOTE: At the time of this edit of my review, I've got 0 out of 4 helpful votes. I guess I shouldn't be surprised as I'm giving a negative review of a popular book. But the point is - is my review actually helpful? And I think it is. I freely admit that those in the target audience will like it and I explain why I don't like it. That's what's called a GOOD review folks - don't say it is a bad review just because you don't like my opinion!
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Great Divorce
Great Divorce by C S Lewis (Paperback - Jan. 25 2001)
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