Appointed Times and Places

*Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read A Horse and His Boy, this post will give away quite a bit.*

While Shasta dreams of Northern lands, a Tarkahn rides up from the South on a Narnian stallion.

While Bree (the horse) talks of being a free horse among his own people, a roar out of the darkness leads him to cross paths with one of his own people–another captive horse dreaming of freedom.

When Shasta’s only wish is to avoid notice, he is taken to be the missing Prince of Archenland–and overhears the Narnian nobles’ plans to sail out of Calormen unnoticed.

When Aravis is only trying to sneak quietly out of a planned marriage to an obsequious toad, she finds herself sandwiched behind a couch, hearing the councils of the Tisroc, the Prince, and said Toad.

Time and time again, the characters of The Horse and His Boy find themselves in just the right place at just the right time.

Not that they always thought the times and places were right.

Shasta didn’t think so when he served practically as a slave in the fisherman’s hut.

Bree didn’t think so when terror of a lion caused Hwin and him to travel the same path.

Aravis didn’t think so when she came within an inch of discovery.

These were frightening experiences, exhausting experiencing–things they wish they’d never have had to go through.

But an unseen breath propelled Shasta’s boat across the sea to Arsheesh’s hut. An unseen hand guided the meetings of Shasta and the Narnian nobles, of Aravis and the Tarkheenah. An unseen hand hid them behind the couch as they overheard the Tisroc’s council.

All throughout their groping journey, it seemed as though Someone had gone on before, marking out their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands.

Someone was giving life to their bodies, purpose to their movements, reason for their being.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.'”
~Acts 17:26-28

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
This post is yet another collection of notes from my reading of The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

Book Review: “C.S. Lewis: The Chronicler of Narnia” by Mary Dodson Wade

I consider juvenile nonfiction as my own personal version of Cliffs Notes (for those of you too young to remember the once ubiquitous yellow and black covered pamphlets, think a printed Spark Notes.) Whenever I want to get a general outline of a topic, a basic overview of an idea, or some interesting facts about something, I turn to the juvenile nonfiction section at my local library.

I was excited to see C.S. Lewis: The Chronicler of Narnia in the children’s nonfiction section when I was working on the Chronicles of Narnia reading challenge (all the way back in July!)

I generally enjoy biographies written for younger people because they tend to focus on the highlights rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae (as some adult biographies can.)

I discovered that Mary Dodson Wade’s biography did a good job at giving a classic overview of Lewis’s life. The author begins at the beginning with young Clive Staples renaming himself “Jacksie” and concludes with some of Lewis’ legacy. In a concise 83 pages, it offers an efficient, comprehensive biography.

My only peeve with the book is its title. With a subtitle like The Chronicler of Narnia, I would have expected the narrative to focus on events and ideas that specifically relate to the Chronicles of Narnia. It did no such thing.

Sure, the book opens with a quote from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader–but from there it gives no mention of Narnia until the second to last chapter (Chapter 13). While many other authors would discuss similarities and differences between Lewis’s childhood imaginary world Boxen and Narnia, Wade remains silent. While many other authors would muse on how Lewis’s love for myth or experience in the Great War or training in philosophy or comaraderie with the Inklings affected his writing of Narnia, this author does not. She does not mention Narnia until after she has told almost all of Lewis’ story and discussed all his other writings. Then and only then, she states “Lewis wrote seven fantasies for children” and begins to speak of the Chronicles.

This is where I find it hard to review this title. How can I assess such a book? It was well suited for the purpose for which I read it–that is, to give me a Cliff Notes on Lewis’s life so I wouldn’t have to work so hard while reading a more in-depth adult biography (I’m currently working on The Narnian by Alan Jacobs.) But as a biography in and of itself? It gets the job done. It tells the facts. But it has little artistry of form to recommend. Wade’s writing doesn’t pull me into Lewis’s world, it doesn’t fascinate me by establishing a meta-narrative in which to read his life, it doesn’t make any interpretations about who Lewis was. It’s just…the facts, nothing more.

Rating: 2 stars
Category: Children’s biography
Synopsis: Wade summarizes the major events in C.S. Lewis’ life, including his many writings.
Recommendation: The facts are there, the treatment pretty comprehensive–but this title lacks soul. If you want an encyclopedia entry-type coverage of Lewis, go ahead and read this. Otherwise, look elsewhere to learn who Lewis really was.

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