I saw it while waiting in the checkout lane at Hobby Lobby…”Oooh! I’ve been wanting this one!” I was about to leave town (remember those days?), so it sat on top of the stack of books in the den, a delight waiting to be savored. As soon as I picked it up, I was hooked…full of 1940’s history, how hard it was like to be a smart, educated woman in the era of “be sweet and pretty, keep a nice house, and rear perfect children.” The imagined letters (originals were destroyed) of a Jew-turned Christian, former atheist, ex-communist, abused New York housewife/writer to the Christian Author C. S. Lewis are interspersed with Patti Callihan’s storyline and bits of Joy Davidman’s sonnets (found after her death). As many others, I knew much of C. S. Lewis, but absolutely nothing of his just-as-prolific wife, only that they married late in life, and she possibly inspired some of his work. I also didn’t know that C. S. was called Jack-a great story for us dog lovers. I could relate to Joy’s tiresome tasks being more pleasant in a harmonious environment, and I enjoyed the descriptions of life in England, Joy’s visiting mother calling her “quite the anglophile,” and Joy asking her to meet “in the sitting room for a cuppa” (tea). The descriptions of Oxford reminded me of our trip in 2015, when our friends from Wales met us at Heathrow, touring Oxford on the way to their home in Newport, before Easter in Swansea.
This historical novel was so good that after reading it, I walked into the kitchen, popped it down on the island and said, “This is the best book I’ve read in a very long time”. About a week later, I picked it up again, and read it slowly, savoring it this time. Now I want to go back and enjoy C. S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” which I read many years ago, “Screwtape Letters” which I’ve always wanted to read, and reread “A Grief Observed.” I barely remembered reading C. S. Lewis’ “The Four Loves” which was referred to all through the novel. Perhaps it’s time to read it again, but my “want to read” list is getting longer and longer.
My father-in-law used to say he hated for a good book to end. Perhaps the best ending for a good book is, like this one, to be so good you want to immediately read it again, then go read other books, and go talk about what you’ve read with your friends. Here you go, my friends, go have “a cuppa” tea and enjoy!