Book Review: Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis

This is the second book by C.S. Lewis I’ve read in the last few months (the first being The Problem With Pain). I find his writing to be so delightfully simple and complex at the same time. You don’t need a high vocabulary to read his books, and yet he breaks down extremely complicated concepts into simple explanations.

Saying that, this book is quick different than most of his books, which are either philosophy and fantasy. This one is instead his autobiography, going from his birth to his conversion to Christianity when he was in his twenties. It covers his school days, fighting in WWI, and his university years at Oxford.

Release: 1955

Synopsis: In this book, C.S. Lewis tells the story of his early life, reflecting on his school life and experiences in the first world war all the way up to his conversion to Christian when he was, “Surprised by Joy.”

Review

I found this book to be particularly interesting because it explains a lot of Lewis’s future writing. For example, his school days were harsh, and one of the things he learned quickly was to have a great fear of Hell. You can see this throughout many of his books I’ve also read, like The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce. Many of his early experiences developed his way of analyzing the world and philosophy, and for that reason I loved this book.

The book starts off when he was born, telling of his relationship with his mother (who died when he was quite young), his father, and his older brother. But most of the book actually focuses on his school days, as he attended several extremely harsh boarding schools, where the younger students would be constantly bullied and put down by the older ones. It then tells of him applying for Oxford and getting in. He only attributes getting in to that fact that most young men were fighting in WWI, since he states he was horrible at taking tests and the more careful he was, the more mistakes he made (I fact I can relate to because I am horrible at taking placement tests).

But he soon gets sent to war, during which he describes the comradery among other soldiers and how many of the friends he made before and during the war died in the trenches, which is rather sad. Finally, the war ends and he returns to Oxford.

At university, he struggles with the fact that all his favorite authors (G.K. Chesterton, Milton, etc.) are all Christian. He himself did not believe in any type of religion. But the more he read authors who were and were not Christian, the more he realized the Christians had a deeper understanding of the world and were just more interesting to read in general. In the end, he states he did not willingly become a Christian, but instead felt like he was dragged into the faith kicking and screaming. That is a funny sight to imagine.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you have read some of Lewis’s other books and are curious why he thinks the way he thinks, I highly recommend it. It’s also a pretty short book (the copy I read was under three hundred pages), and I read nearly the whole book in a couple hours.

What is your favorite book by C.S. Lewis? Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

16 thoughts on “Book Review: Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis

    1. I haven’t read any of Lewis’s fantasy books (outside of Chronicles of Narnia), but all his books are definitely on my TBR! I’ve heard great things about the Space Trilogy, though I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. Thank you for the recommendation!

      Liked by 1 person

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