Reviewed by Candace Cunard for TeensReadToo.com
To call this book a "Narnia movie tie-in," as some of the publicity has, is selling it short. The sixteen essays in this book cover all seven of the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, and although there are several that deal exclusively with Prince Caspian, the movie of which is to be released this May, there are also insightful essays about the other novels in the series. In fact, one of my personal favorites dealt solely with THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (which was always my favorite book in the series, as well). And the depth of these essays moves them beyond the realm of the typical movie tie-in into a place of enthusiastic scholarship.
This is not a book for those unfamiliar with the Chronicles, but if you've ever fallen in love with Narnia, the perspectives these authors offer will be a nice complement to your enjoyment. The essays are at their best when their authors start with a personal obsession and go from there to discuss its thematic relevance to the Chronicles as a whole.
Diana Peterfreund's "King Edmund the Cute" starts by discussing her childhood crush on Edmund, but goes deeper than that to trace his character through the Chronicles to show why Lewis intended him to be an attractive character; having once turned traitor but understanding the error of his ways, he can now lead others on the right path. Diane Duane, a self-proclaimed "foodie," tackles the topic of "Eating in Narnia" from a background that discusses both Lewis's own experiences with rationing during the wars but also goes further to suggest the impact food can have, not just on the body, but on the soul.
I really enjoyed the essays' treatment of Lewis's Christian background. While many of them acknowledged Lewis's goal to create a moral allegory that could lead people to a better understanding of Christianity, this was not the focus of any of the essays.
Sarah Beth Durst's "Missing the Point" argues that Lewis's stories would be compelling even without the allegorical component, and O. R. Melling's "Being Good for Narnia and the Lion" discusses how the series presented her with a picture of being good that was more attractive than that posed by her childhood experiences with church. While I think it's impossible to say that a book on Lewis's work has been written from an entirely secular perspective, the treatment of the religious aspect of the Chronicles was deftly done. I was also impressed with the book's willingness to tackle difficult topics, like the accusations that Lewis's Calormen represents a racist depiction of the Middle East.
But above all, every essay in this collection reminded me why Lewis's works are worth reading for both children and adults, and why every foray into the land of Narnia is a grand adventure, for the reader as well as the characters.
I enjoyed this collection of essays by various authors. Each one had a different theme or perspective into one of the Narnia books or into the series as a whole. One essay explored Lewis' descriptions of food in Narnia while reminding us that Lewis himself was still under war rationing; one explained in detail why Edmund is not only worthy of a school-girl crush, but is the only man in the series worthy of such; another explored Hitler's obsession with the occult, and how the war played into the Narnia books. I think four different authors quoted the same passage about Susan not beliving Lucy saw Aslan in Prince Caspian, but each of the four had a different point to draw from it. Very interesting.