What a beautiful story about a gifted, courageous woman sidelined by history. Joy Davidman juggled life as a mother, a writer, and a poet in an era when she was expected to put her marriage first. Even though she had been a child prodigy.
Living in upstate New York, battling ill health and an abusive marriage, she rediscovered God. When her religious studies led her to the work of C S Lewis, she wrote him a letter, never expecting a reply.
For the next three years, they corresponded. Intellectual equals, they connected through writing, spirituality, and eventually friendship—even though they lived an ocean-away and came from different worlds. Jack (to his friends) was older, revered, and a bachelor who was part of the all-male Oxbridge elite.
After they met in person, they became collaborators and years later, a great deal more. Joy eventually left her marriage—I cheered in that part—and fought poverty to successfully create a new life for her children in London and Oxford. She also earned the love of one of the world’s most famous storytellers.
The language is rich, the characters are unforgettable, and C S Lewis comes alive as a man who struggled with rejection and tragedy. I loved the glimpses into his relationship with his brother, Warren, and the scenes set in their shambolic home in the Oxford countryside, where I could feel the world of Narnia come to life.
But the story belongs to Joy and her unique relationship with Jack. C S Lewis called her, “My whole world,” and even before I finished reading the novel, I had ordered a copy of A Grief Observed, which he wrote while trying to process her death.
There are so many reasons to recommend this novel. A tour de force in historical fiction, it’s as memorable as Joy herself.