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Jack's Life: The Life Story Of C.S. Lewis

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Douglas Gresham claims that Jack Lewis was the finest man and the best Christian he has ever known. Of course, Jack to Douglas is C. S. Lewis to the rest of the world. The informal address Gresham uses to refer to the great writer is indicative of the intimacy he shared with Lewis for a dozen years, living in England as Lewis's stepson. Jack's Life is an affectionate accou Douglas Gresham claims that Jack Lewis was the finest man and the best Christian he has ever known. Of course, Jack to Douglas is C. S. Lewis to the rest of the world. The informal address Gresham uses to refer to the great writer is indicative of the intimacy he shared with Lewis for a dozen years, living in England as Lewis's stepson. Jack's Life is an affectionate account of days now long gone. It is a personal memoir of a man who touched many in the classroom, even more with his pen, and made a significant, lasting, and eternal impression on one young man. Douglas Gresham is uniquely qualified to offer such an extraordinary portrait.


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Douglas Gresham claims that Jack Lewis was the finest man and the best Christian he has ever known. Of course, Jack to Douglas is C. S. Lewis to the rest of the world. The informal address Gresham uses to refer to the great writer is indicative of the intimacy he shared with Lewis for a dozen years, living in England as Lewis's stepson. Jack's Life is an affectionate accou Douglas Gresham claims that Jack Lewis was the finest man and the best Christian he has ever known. Of course, Jack to Douglas is C. S. Lewis to the rest of the world. The informal address Gresham uses to refer to the great writer is indicative of the intimacy he shared with Lewis for a dozen years, living in England as Lewis's stepson. Jack's Life is an affectionate account of days now long gone. It is a personal memoir of a man who touched many in the classroom, even more with his pen, and made a significant, lasting, and eternal impression on one young man. Douglas Gresham is uniquely qualified to offer such an extraordinary portrait.

30 review for Jack's Life: The Life Story Of C.S. Lewis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beckie

    Douglas Gresham is C.S. Lewis's stepson, and his biography of Lewis is nothing short of glowing. It provides some good insight into Lewis's formative experiences, particularly his service in World War I. What it doesn't do is describe much about the author's relationship with the subject, which surprised me. Gresham is almost hopelessly partisan in favor of Lewis, which is understandable but a bit distracting. It also makes it harder to trust his authority in telling the story (no one is as perfe Douglas Gresham is C.S. Lewis's stepson, and his biography of Lewis is nothing short of glowing. It provides some good insight into Lewis's formative experiences, particularly his service in World War I. What it doesn't do is describe much about the author's relationship with the subject, which surprised me. Gresham is almost hopelessly partisan in favor of Lewis, which is understandable but a bit distracting. It also makes it harder to trust his authority in telling the story (no one is as perfect as Lewis comes off in this book). He is also prone to editorializing, a habit that would make more sense if he had known Lewis for a greater portion of his life. The book is mostly chronological, but Gresham repeats various portions of time in multiple places, which is frustrating. To me, the most interesting Lewis tidbits were that he failed (twice) his entrance exam to Oxford and that the Malcolm of "Letters to Malcolm" was not a real person. I hadn't known much about Lewis's relationship with the Moores, the mother and sister of his friend Paddy who died in combat, but I found that part of the book more overbearing than enlightening. Reading "Jack's Life" made me wish I was reading Lewis's own clear prose. Gresham isn't a bad writer, but he's not a great one, either. The book is meant to be less heady than other Lewis biographies, and in this it succeeds. I'm just not sure that's much of an accomplishment; I would have liked to see Lewis in a bit more complexity.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kristy Hetzel

    I'm not sure I would have got as much out of this book had I not read Becoming Mrs Lewis first. Having read that, however, it made this one come more alive and filled in a lot of backstory. Likewise, this book filled in some of the backstory for Becoming Mrs Lewis. I do recommend reading them in that order.

  3. 4 out of 5

    momma.hailey

    Fast, Easy Read. The author was Lewis’ Stepson and he gives a short easy biography of Lewis’ life. I wouldn’t read it again but it was a nice break from some heavier reading. I learned much, and it has inspired me to tackle some of Lewis’ earlier writings.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diana Maryon

    This includes fresh insights and newer information, supplementary to Lenten Lands (1988) also published by Douglas Gresham. No-one still living knew Lewis as well as he. Gresham is particularly good on the developing romance with his Mother, and the quality of the love between the couple. But I also appreciate the detail about Lewis' exemplary character in daily life. I'm surprised to note at least two dozen ugly and unnecessary slips of presentation as well as factual errors; Lenten Lands is This includes fresh insights and newer information, supplementary to Lenten Lands (1988) also published by Douglas Gresham. No-one still living knew Lewis as well as he. Gresham is particularly good on the developing romance with his Mother, and the quality of the love between the couple. But I also appreciate the detail about Lewis' exemplary character in daily life. I'm surprised to note at least two dozen ugly and unnecessary slips of presentation as well as factual errors; Lenten Lands is virtually clean by contrast. Really Douglas ought to republish his good book with a press where the people do not take money for 'editing' like this. No, Lewis did not get a degree out of Classical Mods., because that is not a degree examination. No, the Fellows of an Oxbridge college are not called 'faculty'. Publisher please note. I could remedy all of this with two hours of my time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Cox

    Fantastic biography! I like that the author’s adoration for his stepfather shone through while he faced the tough facts of hard times in C.S. “Jack” Lewis’s life. Yet, there were plenty of humorous and entertaining anecdotes Mr. Gresham shared too. His style of writing was nearly novel-like at times, and it made me wonder if he gleaned many tips in writing from his prolific-writer stepdad. What a legacy! Content: alcohol, suicide

  6. 4 out of 5

    Trish Hermanson

    This biography by the stepson of C.S. Lewis peels away the illusion of the easy life of the academic, revealing a life of poverty, poor health, and responsibilities. What is compelling is C.S. Lewis's response to these challenges.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brit

    A short and easy to read biography of a great man.

  8. 5 out of 5

    RE de Leon

    Biographies written by people close to the subject of their book tend to have their ups and downs. On the upside, such authors tend to have unique insights into their subjects, and if the writer is a good one, this usually makes for an excellent read. On the downside, it's possible for the author's perspective to influence the book such that it gives us a lopsided view of the person being described. Gresham's very objective biographies of CS Lewis tend to avoid the pitfalls, and are indeed insigh Biographies written by people close to the subject of their book tend to have their ups and downs. On the upside, such authors tend to have unique insights into their subjects, and if the writer is a good one, this usually makes for an excellent read. On the downside, it's possible for the author's perspective to influence the book such that it gives us a lopsided view of the person being described. Gresham's very objective biographies of CS Lewis tend to avoid the pitfalls, and are indeed insightful pieces. And if you are a young person interested in learning about CS Lewis' life, then this is certainly the best Lewis bio I can recommend to you. To my knowledge, "Jack's Life" was specifically written for young readers. Or rather, the earliest chapters were written for young readers, as Gresham has stated that he wrote the book so that it would cater to readers of greater maturity as one progresses through the chapters. This doesn't seem to have been clearly stated on the book itself, though. For older audiences, do note that I say "biographies" in the plural. Gresham has written a previous book "Lenten Lands", which chronicles his youth. A large part of that youth was spent with CS Lewis, his stepfather. "Lenten Lands" is probably the book most adult readers were looking for when they purchased "Jack's Life", and they will NOT be disappointed. "Lenten Lands" is easily the most intimate of all the Lewis biographies. But enough about "Lenten Lands," this review is about "Jack's Life." This is a well written book, and having read no less than five other CS Lewis biographies, I find myself reading "Jack's Life" not for information, but as a bit of light, entertaining reading. - December 2010 Addendum, January 10, 2011 Finished the book and I must say, this is the perfect book to give to young readers to introduce them to the life and workos of CS Lewis. I was apprehensive until I reached that part of the book that Gresham himself had participated in, as this could have been an occasion for a sappily biased portrayal. And of course, it's partial to his perspective. But he manages these portions with class, stating the facts and giving his opinion but not being overstated about it at all. There is much that this book glosses over - the controversy over what Lewis' exact relationship with Mrs Moore was, and exactly how well Joy Gresham got along with Lewis' Oxford crowd. But this is a book for young readers, and some glossing over is to be expected. Overall, an effective biography and a strapping good read. RE de Leon 1.00 PM January 10, 2011 Marikina, Metro Manila, Philippines

  9. 5 out of 5

    Noelle

    A delightful read that has proven to be a good time-traveling machine this week, as well. I find myself looking for this book whenever I have a quiet moment to spare. Gresham's style is simplistic, but gives sufficient explanation for you to form your own visual of C.S. Lewis as a young boy at school, then a scholar living at The Kilns, and on into the rest of his life. Gresham even tells a bit about his most famous works and the C.S. Lewis that we are most familiar with. This is a book I recomme A delightful read that has proven to be a good time-traveling machine this week, as well. I find myself looking for this book whenever I have a quiet moment to spare. Gresham's style is simplistic, but gives sufficient explanation for you to form your own visual of C.S. Lewis as a young boy at school, then a scholar living at The Kilns, and on into the rest of his life. Gresham even tells a bit about his most famous works and the C.S. Lewis that we are most familiar with. This is a book I recommend. There are a few silly "first edition" errors in spacing and punctuation here and there, but that adds to the charm of it. It's as though your friend has written you a long letter about his favorite person in the world... and by the end, you can't help but feel the same way. There are editorial comments here and there, as well, which blend into the narrative almost completely. I'll give you a taste right here: "...It was called, "The Inklings," but even that was not in any way a formal name for it. The word inkling means a sort of vague idea. If someone asks you a question and you don't have any idea of the answer, you might say, "I don't have the faintest inkling." It could also mean someone who plays with ink, and back in those days writing was done with a pen made of a wooden handle with a steel nib attached to it. You dipped your nib into a bottle of ink or an inkwell and then wrote until the ink on the nib ran out, usually about six or seven words. Then you dipped again." ("Friends and Good Fellowship," Page 107)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Many of the negative reviews point out the obvious flaws-- the language can seem simplistic, and the observations are not those of a true 'biographer'. I would assert, however, that these flaws are also what make the book convincing and memorable. This is not a scholarly work and I wouldn't use it as research for a paper but it is a lovely biography of a man written by a child who loved him. The book draws a rich portrait of Lewis's early life which I found fascinating and I often wondered where Many of the negative reviews point out the obvious flaws-- the language can seem simplistic, and the observations are not those of a true 'biographer'. I would assert, however, that these flaws are also what make the book convincing and memorable. This is not a scholarly work and I wouldn't use it as research for a paper but it is a lovely biography of a man written by a child who loved him. The book draws a rich portrait of Lewis's early life which I found fascinating and I often wondered where the line between Gresham's scholarly research and Lewis's own words to him could be drawn. The later years go by much quicker and although they are enjoyable I wondered at the further stories and recollections hinted at in the text. But, when recollecting our childhood, it is inevitable that we remember only the large events and the very small details in between. It is hard to weave a complete tapestry, we were too busy living through it to write everything down. There are several moments where the author steps aside to address the reader directly on how to interpret actions that might seem strange to a modern young reader. I thought his analysis on changing cultural mores was generally sensible. There is also a recognizable amount of religious discussion in the text. But, even to a reader who generally does not seek these things out, it was not disruptive. I like to think that this is the kind of obituary we would write for our dearest loved ones, if only we had the years and time to write everything down.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Neveils

    It seemed as though Douglas was writing for children. His diction and syntax were very basic, elementary, if you will. This is certainly a subjective work, as everything Lewis does is either magnificent and from God, or a simple fluke that wasn't his fault. He repeats himself often, which throws the chronolgical sequences out of sequence a bit. Often repeating himself, Gresham would reiterate Mrs. Moore's overbearing need for attention. Gresham repeated himself, sometimes too frequently, and it c It seemed as though Douglas was writing for children. His diction and syntax were very basic, elementary, if you will. This is certainly a subjective work, as everything Lewis does is either magnificent and from God, or a simple fluke that wasn't his fault. He repeats himself often, which throws the chronolgical sequences out of sequence a bit. Often repeating himself, Gresham would reiterate Mrs. Moore's overbearing need for attention. Gresham repeated himself, sometimes too frequently, and it could become overbearing. Now, I might have overstated how Gresham repeats himself, but he does bring something different than most other Lewis biographies have: a sense of Lewis' personality. I liked getting to know more than just the scholar. It is a quick read, but not the greatest or best written.

  12. 5 out of 5

    DD

    Loved this biography on Jack's namesake! Best quote: "I am sometimes asked what it is like living in the shadow of such a great man, and I always point out that Jack did not leave a shadow behind him but a glow. If I am able to reflect even the slightest spark of that glow, I am more than happy to do so." Praying we glow rather than leave a shadow!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marcia Meerwarth

    Happy to have read this book. Learned much from it about living this life and loving others. Always great to read about a Christian who is a deep thinker and practical about the servanthood of those who follow Christ and His Word.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Mosley

    Read in the following year(s): 2007 2012 (5-17 September)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    As a recent student of all things C.S. Lewis I sought to read this book to learn more about Lewis' life with Joy Davidman. This book was penned by her son Douglas Grisham. I was very disappointed. First, his style of writing appears to be trying to emulate Lewis' style in the tales of Narnia. This means he writes to inform a 10-year-old which obviously any reader who wanted to know more about Lewis would not be. Second, most of the book was written about a time Gresham would have personally know As a recent student of all things C.S. Lewis I sought to read this book to learn more about Lewis' life with Joy Davidman. This book was penned by her son Douglas Grisham. I was very disappointed. First, his style of writing appears to be trying to emulate Lewis' style in the tales of Narnia. This means he writes to inform a 10-year-old which obviously any reader who wanted to know more about Lewis would not be. Second, most of the book was written about a time Gresham would have personally know nothing about. In fact his mother, Joy is not even mentioned until page 141 of a 162-page book. I would have thought he would be able to share stories of his time living with Lewis, but there is not even one such recollection and one wonders what happened to him and his brother after she dies and he is left under Lewis' care. Again, he tells us nothing of interest or value. Very disappointed and if you want to study Lewis' life I'd skip this one as a source.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    This biography of CS Lewis is written by his stepson, Doug. CS Lewis was known as Jack: Jack was a dog that was loved by him and his brother. CS Lewis didn't like his given name as a child, so he adopted the name of his dog. This slim book does a remarkable job of describing Jack's life, including all the challenges of family dynamics, poverty, and education. Jack made a promise to a friend in WWII that he would take care of his mother and sister if the friend was killed. Jack honored his promis This biography of CS Lewis is written by his stepson, Doug. CS Lewis was known as Jack: Jack was a dog that was loved by him and his brother. CS Lewis didn't like his given name as a child, so he adopted the name of his dog. This slim book does a remarkable job of describing Jack's life, including all the challenges of family dynamics, poverty, and education. Jack made a promise to a friend in WWII that he would take care of his mother and sister if the friend was killed. Jack honored his promise even though the situation created daily problems. The tone of this book is a bit "preachy" but worth the time to read if you are a fan of CS Lewis's works.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    This biography of C.S. Lewis was written by his stepson, Douglas Gresham. The book both benefits and suffers from that fact. The benefit was in the first-person account. The drawback was his tendency to cast Lewis in the best possible light, no matter what the circumstance. For example, the falling out between Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien doesn't even register. Ultimately, the book would have been improved had it included more first-person narrative and less defense of Lewis. However, given the relat This biography of C.S. Lewis was written by his stepson, Douglas Gresham. The book both benefits and suffers from that fact. The benefit was in the first-person account. The drawback was his tendency to cast Lewis in the best possible light, no matter what the circumstance. For example, the falling out between Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien doesn't even register. Ultimately, the book would have been improved had it included more first-person narrative and less defense of Lewis. However, given the relationship between the two and the fact that Gresham is no author, it's understandable and the book is worth reading by fans of Lewis.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Sheehan

    I have loved reading many of C.S. Lewis' works. But I never got to know much about this amazing author of whom I so admire. This lovely work unfolds the character of a man giving life behind the words written in ink revealing intimate moments of his life, his victories and defeats, his tears and laughter of a man who has touched millions. What an enjoyable walk through the life and stories of C.S. Lewis's early life all the way to his death, giving me deep insight into a man and his God. A worthy I have loved reading many of C.S. Lewis' works. But I never got to know much about this amazing author of whom I so admire. This lovely work unfolds the character of a man giving life behind the words written in ink revealing intimate moments of his life, his victories and defeats, his tears and laughter of a man who has touched millions. What an enjoyable walk through the life and stories of C.S. Lewis's early life all the way to his death, giving me deep insight into a man and his God. A worthy read for just about any fan of C.S. Lewis.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Douglas Gresham is the stepson of C.S. Lewis. He has insights and experiences that other biographers of the famed Christian apologist do not. Although this is a brief bio it provides much information about the Moore family's relationship with Jack, as well as The Kilns, home of Jack and Warnie, and later joy Davidman and her two sons Davy and Douglas. When joy was thought to be dying of cancer, Jack prayed that the pain she was currently experiencing be taken from her and given to him. It was. T Douglas Gresham is the stepson of C.S. Lewis. He has insights and experiences that other biographers of the famed Christian apologist do not. Although this is a brief bio it provides much information about the Moore family's relationship with Jack, as well as The Kilns, home of Jack and Warnie, and later joy Davidman and her two sons Davy and Douglas. When joy was thought to be dying of cancer, Jack prayed that the pain she was currently experiencing be taken from her and given to him. It was. They considered this transference a miracle.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maria Copeland

    Nice overview of Lewis's life, but Gresham's writing voice was halted by modifiers (sort of, rather, etc.) and occasionally felt like it was talking down to readers. Having read Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan helped to give me a complete picture, so these might work well in tandem--except that the novel is for adult readers, while this biography could easily be read by kids 6th grade up.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    Wonderful! As C. S. Lewis has long been one of my favorite authors, having a look into his life has not only been educational, but also very moving. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves C. S. Lewis's work!

  22. 5 out of 5

    James Prothero

    Nice bio from Doug. It is different than the others in that Doug traces how Jack felt about the changes in his life, the personal angle, as opposed to mere facts, or critical analysis. Also, Doug gives far more information about Lewis' war experience than we've had before.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Gresham's take on Lewis' life is very sweet. Lewis is absolutely the hero, and any and all who hurt him the villains. A nice take on the life of the Lewis family, and some interesting updates on their home, the Kilns.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Becky Johnson

    C.S. Lewis led a very hard life throughout most of his life. I never knew this till I read this book. And he still managed to write so many incredible books and have many great friends. Wow! I admire him even more after reading this biography written by his stepson.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This was an fascinating read about CS Lewis but the writing was a bit repetitive. Stories were repeated multiple times and wasn’t nearly as engaging as it could have been. However I’m always interested to learn more about Lewis.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    Was really looking forward to the book by C.S. Lewis’ step-son. It should be remembered that he is not himself a writer, but this book had many typos and was in desperate need of an editor. His narrative often felt like I was reading a children’s picture book the way he explained things.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Allen White

    Good, easy to read, but not much new information, considering the author is Lewis's stepson, and I still can't figure why he says next to nothing about his brother David.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Delightful read

  29. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    Unfortunately, poorly organized and written. However, the subject matter made it more than worth reading. I wish I could have been in the Inklings.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Enjoyed reading this book. Lot's of insight from his stepson that I put in my common place book. Encouraged to read all the Narnia books. We have only listened to all the BBC audios...krb 10/1/18

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