Living in Oxford, you can’t help but be beset by CS Lewis facts and stories all the time. Somehow, though, I didn’t know anything about the woman that became his wife, the poet Joy Davidman, and so I was very intrigued to read her story – but I wasn’t expecting this book to have so much of an impact on me!
Book: Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan
Read before: No
Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by Harper Inspire. All opinions my own.
I’m not a huge reader of what gets classed as women’s fiction, as I’ve mentioned before. Nothing against it, but I prefer to have a few dragons in my leisure time! I was very interested, however, in having a woman-centred book about CS Lewis, as so often, he is depicted as part of this Oxonian boy’s club – I wanted to see him from a different perspective, and that’s certainly what we get here. We see Joy fall in love with Lewis first through letters, and then in real life, but her image of him is very much to do with her personality and experience, which I found wonderful to read.
There’s so much depth to this book, and though he is a key part of her life, it’s definitely a book about Joy rather than about Lewis, which to be honest, I’m glad about. She’s such a strong and fascinating character. It’s difficult to know how true a fictionalised version of a real person can be, but the narrative voice here is really strong, and utterly compelling, and seems to be backed up well in the excerpts of her real-life letters and poems that are included. I really want to track down a book of her poems now, because what’s excerpted here is phenomenally touching and insightful. There are times in this book where I worried that the miseries of Joy’s unhappy marriage and subsequent divorce might veer too far into glumness, but though she can be spiky, her astonishing brilliance and sheer force of character kept me glued to the page, rooting for her to find happiness. She’s a fighter and a poet and someone who finds a way to be whatever she needs to be, and really, that’s how you become your own heroine.
The love story is quiet, without fireworks, but wholly encapsulates the pain and joys of falling in love with someone unexpected and not knowing if they love you back. I think the thing that impressed me most about this book was how much it made me feel. I felt such a connection with Joy, and the way that Patti Callahan writes emotions is just heart-achingly beautiful. I finished the book in floods of tears – full on, actual, ugly sobs – partly from sadness, and partly from the beauty and hope of it all. It’s a gorgeous book, and it’s put me on to finding out more about a fascinating woman who is not nearly well-known enough. There’s no way this beautiful, heart-stirring read wouldn’t get five out of five cats from me!
Do be sure to check out the other bloggers on this tour! The graphic above will let you know where to go next. And if I’ve whetted your appetite, you can get hold of the book here!