I might not have been surprised by joy as I read this book - it was far to factually autobiographical for me, and not what I expected - but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed parts of it.
Both Lewis's description of his childhood education (and the hotbed of homo-eroticism that private boys-only schools were) was brilliant and non-judgemental and his glossed-over, but no less harrowing, account of his experience in WW1, provided an intriguing glimpse into a byone era.
Perhaps this was my biggest problem with the book - I expected a deeply inspiring, imaginative and very personal account of his spiritual awakening. Instead, this book is mainly autbiographical with a few paragraphs here and there covering his spiritual journey. Emotion was thin on the ground - intellectual scholarship was densely packed into each sentence.
Thanks to my long ago classical studies I could wade through the allusions without getting too lost, but still ... I wanted to be inspired, to feel what Lewis felt as he journeyed back to his God.
Instead, it took me nearly two weeks to struggle through it because as a rule, I don't read autobiographies. Ultimately, this was more biographical than it was spiritual and thus SURPRISED BY JOY didn't meet my expectations as a reader.
(This review is for the Kindle edition with the below cover)
Like so many others, I greatly enjoyed the Narnia series when I was growing up. I read it for fun and had no idea that it was a Christian allegory until I was an adult. While my daughters enjoyed them (one has read them at least four times) they disappointed me somewhat as an adult. However, I have tried a few times to read other books by Lewis, but this is the first one I’ve made it all the way through. To be honest, what kept me going is that this will be part of a book discussion with some old reading friends. I read a chapter per day as if it were a school assignment.
The two stars are not because Lewis was unable to write or articulate his thoughts, because he certainly did. However, as a memoir of his journey to atheism and then to Christianity, a subject of keen interest to me, it ended up having little appeal. It was more of his educational and intellectual journey through his youth, punctuated by descriptions of life away at different schools, until he became a Christian. Of course, it’s another example of a brilliant intellectual coming around from atheism to Christianity, something so many feel is impossible, but there was little to tug at my heartstrings or to empathize or sympathize as much with him as I would have liked to given so many of his circumstances. Perhaps it’s because he write it when he was will into his fifties and was so far removed, but I think perhaps it may have been because he was not ever given to having many friends when he was growing up, nor did he really want them most of the time, and those he did make were usually as intellectual as he was.
That said, Lewis had some interesting insights at times, but what I found irksome was that girls and women tend to only appear as the odd relative hosting some sort of gathering (his mother died when he was very young) almost another species, or were referred to in light of erotic passion not being a substitute for joy, or how lack of girls in the area led to increased pederasty in public school and how it affected or was affected by the social hierarchy (that’s the term he employed for that) or other things equally bereft of any recognition of women as humans with a capacity for intelligence.
A good debut for a new M/M writer.
I stumbled over this one, and was intrigued. Derek, a young man who could've had everything he wanted, leaves his life and love in New York behind and goes home. Means back to the South, his mother and curious Uncle, a bunch of true friends and most importantly, getting away from his fiancé. And he loves it, all of it. The food, the language, the nights out with his friend and his new job as a teacher. The only blib on his negativity-radar? His old high school crush and former tormentor.
I enjoyed reading this debut of Jordan Nasser. I liked the groundwork Nasser layed out, and I warmed up to Derek after a little while. He isn't bad, he's just not the easiest character to like. He has his issues, one of them running away every time it get's too hard to try. Which is not one of the most admirable personality traits in my book. On the other hand, Derek is sweet and caring, if a little self-absorbed. What made me really like the story though, were the side characters. Granted, some of them might come over as clichéd a time or two. But in the grand scheme of things, it was an adorable, wildly mixed bunch. They made me laugh and chuckle a lot.
It would have been nice to get to know a little more about Derek's motivations. Why all the running? Why the need to go back to "safety" when you already know it's a bad idea? But maybe stuff like that could be part of a second part in the series? *wink-wink-nudge-nudge*
Why "only" 3.5 stars? I liked the story, just had some issues here and there with Derek. But mostly, I was not really satisfied with the ending. It didn't feel right to have Derek "switch" sides like it was nothing. You don't want me anymore? Fine, I'll go back to my ex - and vice versa. In a heartbeat. Alright, not really in a heartbeat - he took his time and it was written in a somewhat believable manner. I just didn't like it.
The other thing? Tenses! I'm not that nit-picky when it comes to grammar or vocabulary - I'm not a native speaker mayself. But here, I was irritated every so often because the tenses were all over the place. Past, present, perfect - you name it, you got it and not always in the correct way. So yes, I was a little distracted by that.
All in all, a really good debut novel that I enjoyed quite a bit. Looking forward to the second installment in the series and other works by this author.
Tamsin's a seriously cool roommate.
And also, it tells you something about how much I'm enjoying this when I'm laughing over several scenes/phrases in this book. It's actually really cute.
The only thing I can say that works against it (well, for and against) is the brevity. Super fast read, but the details are minimal.