Thursday, April 9, 2015

Devin Brown: Bringing Narnia Home

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

The wisdom of C. S. Lewis comes in a form that is deeply moving as well as great fun and high adventure. Noted Lewis scholar and popular speaker Devin Brown reveals the lessons woven throughout this endearing text. Bringing Narnia Home presents Lewis’s timeless message for the Narnian in each of us. Imagine opening a book and finding chapters like these:

·  Of Mice and Minotaurs: Actions We See as Small and Insignificant Can Be More Important than We Realize Despite What White Witches, Tisrocs, and Other Tyrants Think

·  Narnia Would Not Be Narnia if It Was All Badgers: It Takes a Village (One with Giants, Dwarfs, and Everyone in Between) to Make a Community

·  Adventures Can Begin in the Most Unlikely Places (Something to Keep in Mind the Next Time You Find Yourself in an Unlikely Place)
A wise, winsome, and whimsical look at the important values and lessons the Narnia series teaches that actually provide the groundwork for a profound and meaningful life.

My Thoughts:

I am a student of C. S. Lewis’ fiction and non-fiction writing. While in graduate school, I composed two twenty-five page essays related to some of his work. While doing research, I read and came across a number of Devin Brown’s literary criticism about C. S. Lewis. Even took home some of his writings on J. R. R. Tolkien because I love him too. So I am pretty familiar with the writings of Devin Brown. When I discovered Brown had another book on Lewis’ Narnia series coming out, I jumped at the chance to actually review it. I have never reviewed his book before; just read them for research and pleasure purposes. His tone and subject matter mirrored his other books, sparking a smile from me.

In Opening Words, Brown states his thesis statement up front, “when we finish the last of page of each adventure [referring to the Narnia series] and close the book, we do not have to leave Narnia behind. If we bring home the lessons we have learned and apply them in our own lives, we are like a person who returns from a distant country with a magical treasure to share with everyone they meet” (xii). Brown’s purpose was to show the tiny gems or lessons for life Lewis buried within the various stories. Brown does just that. He jumps right in sharing a general lesson by using examples from three different Narnian stories in each chapter. 

To finish the prose, Brown uses a section appropriately titled “Bringing Narnia Home” where he nails home the lesson learned from the pre-mentioned examples. My least favorite part is where Brown shares a couple of questions for further discussion at each chapter’s end. I, personally, thought the questions could have been moved to the back of the book with subheadings to draw attention to the chapter the questions related to. It was annoying, so I skipped those sections as I read. Another element that really bothered me is that Brown kept referring to God as “god.” Why not capitalize the name?

Bringing Narnia Home strives for a simple, easy to follow format with normal vernacular. I believe the vocabulary Brown uses could be enjoyed and understood by anyone. Even though Brown is most definitely an educated man, he does not alienate a certain education level with his words.

His qualifications to write a book about Lewis’ Narnia is evident with all the research and teaching he has done in the Lewis’ field of literature. Brown is a Professor of English at Asbury University where he teaches a course on Tolkien and Lewis. In addition to his current work, Brown holds a Ph.D. and a Master’s Degree and has studied at Oxford University and University College Dublin. Besides all his educational credits, Brown has published at least ten books related to Lewis and Tolkien along with a number of essays and scholarly articles. Brown has also spoken at Oxford University with his writings and was honored to be the Scholar-in-Residence for the Summer Seminar held at The Kilns, the Oxford home of C. S. Lewis.
There are no photos or illustrations in the book, but Brown does allude to some pictures in the original Narnia books by illustrator Pauline Baynes.

Brown’s latest original creation will appeal to fans, either young or old, of Narnia. My favorite part is visualizing the images from my imagination when I read those stories when I was younger. It drew a connection with me. Brown proved why I love Lewis’ writing so much because I could not learn everything on the first pass through. It takes multiple trips to Narnia, in order, to peel back the multiple layers of depth buried by Lewis. I would recommend this book to any fan of Narnia. No matter the age. It is targeted for audiences to enjoy after reading the series, and I believe, most readers are younger when they experience Narnia for the first time, so a young child could read this book with no problem. Maybe even learn how to be a better citizen in this world.

Overall, Devin Brown’s latest book, Bringing Narnia Home, is a sweet, quick read to spark discussions, bringing back the desire to reread the series to remind me of my passion for Lewis’s writings.

I received a complimentary copy of Bringing Narnia Home from Abingdon Press and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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