C.S. Lewis At War is another title in the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. You may recall that I previously reviewed “The Chronicles of Narnia” in this post here. The package contains eight discs, with six discs being a dramatic reading of Lewis’ work “Mere Christianity,” and the other two being a dramatic story about C.S. Lewis and the inspiration for “Mere Christianity.”
“Mere Christianity” is dramatically read by Philip Bird, but C.S. Lewis At War contains a cast of about 20-25 characters. Lewis is played by Jeremy Northam (from the films The Net and Emma), but the biggest name they landed was John Rhys-Davies (Gimli in The Lord of the Rings). Other people play minor roles such as evacuees, BBC employees, and even some of the Inklings, like J.R.R Tolkien. Douglas Gresham, Lewis’ stepson, even lends his voice as the host to set the stage for the book.
The dramatic reading of “Mere Christianity” is masterfully done. I have listened to another recording of this book, and it didn’t hold my attention like this version. In Focus on the Family’s version, Philip Bird adds a bit of wit and wisdom in his tone that it feels like Lewis himself is reading the work. However, where this product really shines is in the radio drama. In this story we are transported back to the year 1939. Germany has just invaded Poland and World War II is officially underway. We hear a minister on a radio make the announcement to all of his listeners. Elsewhere, C.S. Lewis is giving a lecture to what sounds like a small to modest sized crowd, and his lecture is interrupted by that news as well. This war shapes not only the book, but the rest of Lewis’ life and work.
England and the entire world was experiencing what I can best describe is a loss of faith. War and rumors of war made people afraid and I believe question the existence of God. In England, children are shipped off to keep them out of harm’s way. Those who have read The Chronicles of Narnia might remember this. C.S. Lewis At War captures not only the turmoil that Lewis was facing, but England as well. However, like a piece of coal when pressure is applied, a diamond was formed both in the man and his works. It was because of this awful period that Lewis was able to write one of the best defenses of Christianity that stood the test of time 70+ years later. Also, in this work one gets little hints of Lewis’ inspiration for works like Narnia and Inklings fans are treated to some interaction between the two giants of Lewis and Tolkien.
Overall, I found this whole CD set to be quite enjoyable and very well done in terms of the sound and narration quality. I could have listened to it for hours upon hours, so when it ended I was disappointed there was not more. My only complaint is with the packaging of these CDs. The part that holds the CDs slid out of its sleeve on more than one occasion and thus some of the plastic that holds the CDs in place broke off. I was able to fix it with a little tape, but perhaps I should have been more careful with how I held it. If you or someone you know would like a first rate reading of “Mere Christianity” and a glimpse into a different part of his life than the one you might have seen in the movie Through the Shadowlands, then you will want this CD set in your collection. Five stars!
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Copyright 2015 Stuart Dunn.