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on July 18, 2001
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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on May 1, 2002
A friend told me that this book opened his eyes to the fact that some people don't want answers, only debate and politics. He couldn't believe people would think that way, but then he went to college and experienced them for himself.
Lewis has written a fun, memorable story about going to hell in a dream (or vision) and taking a bus tour of heaven. The ghostly figures that file timidly off the bus are barely visible in the bright light of heaven, and the grass is so much more real (or true) than they are it hurts their feet. One man tried to steal a golden apple, and he may as well have been trying to hiest a boulder. Lewis himself, writing in first person, feared a coming rain may pummel them into the ground.
But after the initial shock of a world more real than he could imagine, he watched the other tourist interact with heavenly friends who had come to greet them. Some of them were friends from earth, some just kind-hearted people. Again and again the hellions (if I may call them that) choose to hold on to their worthless pride or foolhearty beliefs rather than humble themselves to the truth. Pride manifests itself in a hundred subtle ways as these pitiful souls whine about perceived injustices or irrational motives. Thankfully, a few tourists do humble themselves, become transformed into marvelously real beings, and remain in heaven. But most don't, about which the great Scottish author George MacDonald, Lewis' heavenly guide, says, "They may not be rejecting the truth of heaven now. They may be reenacting the rejection they made while on earth."
This book has curious insight into our human hearts and teaches a few Biblical ideas in very memorable ways. I enjoyed reading it myself and again aloud to my wife. Lewis has a nice, readable style. 4 stars, only because a guy can't give everything good five stars.
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on October 16, 2001
Although I do not share Lewis's metaphysical assumptions about heaven and hell, I think The Great Divorce, in addition to being a thought-provoking religious piece, is one of the best "ghost stories" I have ever read. There's always been a moral dimension to the ghost story...the ghost seen as a sad spirit bound by the faults that enchained him in life. Lewis skilfully presents this concept in this novel about a group of spirits in hell who take a bus-ride to heaven but find no happiness there, because they bring their own hell with them.
If there is one criticism I have of the novel it is that it seems rather heartless at times. While Lewis's narrator does not go so far as to rejoice in the sufferings of the damned, neither, it seems, is there much pity for them in the celestial realm. Lewis at times takes pains to criticize human emotions like pity, compassion, and an inordinate desire for human (as opposed to divine) companionship. His whole concept of saved vs. damned leaves very little room for ordinary human-ness, which sometimes imparts a rather cold and inhuman quality to the novel. Nevertheless, the novel's originality and skillful style do make it worth reading.
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on May 16, 2003
"The Great Divorce," by C.S. Lewis, tells the story of a bus ride from hell to heaven. The title is a riff on William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," which Lewis cites in his preface.
Although Christian theology is briefly cited in the book, it seems that Lewis' overall point--to promote belief in and adoration of a supreme being--is as applicable to Jews, Muslims, and many others as it would be to Christians. To quote the book directly: "There is but one good; that is God."
The story is full of wonderful visual images and imaginative flourishes that give the book the flavor of classic fantasy literature. And although at times the book has a certain smug quality, it is entertaining and thought-provoking. Lewis' prose style is consistently engaging.
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on April 22, 2002
I'm not usually a fan of allegories such as this. And, in truth, I'm not overly fond of this allegory either. It's not that Lewis' points aren't excellent ones. It's not that the story isn't interesting. I imagine it's because sometimes the points are so allegorical that I have to sit and think too long before I really understand what he's driving at, and I don't like to stop so often when I'm reading a narrative. Still, the metaphors are beautiful and often brilliant, and the book did hold my interest until the end. With a little patience, I'm sure I could have gotten a great deal more out of it. Those who choose to put in more effort than I would probably find it well worthwhile.
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on May 11, 2003
This book was one of the launch pads into the realm of Lewis. The book, fiction though it is, requires one to follow the point of Lewis--those who do not go to heaven would not enjoy it there anyway.
This book has caused unnecessary fire from people who have a terrible habit of reading "fiction" literally. This book is not canonical Scripture. Please do not think that Lewis proposes that one can travel from heaven to hell, and vice-versa. Lewis is merely trying to make a point.
I would encourage readers to enjoy the book, apply the message to their lives, and not to dampen the impact with wooden literalism.
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on November 13, 2001
With clear moral and spiritual insight, Lewis delves into what keeps man from God. Using a mythical bus trip from Hell to Heaven, he shows what humans have to sacrifice on the way to Heaven. While, some say Lewis is a bit cold in this book, I disagree. Lewis merely shows that even the best virtuals can be twisted into vices. Like men who kill innocents in the name of God, or the stalker who terroizes the one he "loves". The major problem is that like the Screwtape Letters it is more piercing than we would like, but just as piercing as we need.
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on January 21, 2004
I could not put this fictional story down. The story representing heaven and hell is short but captivating. The numerous characters in the book reject the offer to heaven and give excuses that are really excuses people give for rejecting heaven while they are on earth. I must admit that there were parts of the story that I did not understand, but the basic premise was obvious and interesting.
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on June 27, 2003
For some reason, I find myself returning to this book about once a year to re-read it. It's a short and easy read, but it's length is deceptive. Lewis is an excellent observer of the human condition and this allegory is very thought provoking. Written over 40 years ago, it still stays fresh.
I would highly recommend this book.
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on June 16, 2013
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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