Part of my interest in this book comes from my own vocation as Teller of Significant Stories, which Ward argues The Chronicles are for several layers of reasons. Part comes from the fact that I experiment with writing (including the fantasy genre) myself; so I see parts of myself reflected both in Ward's analysis and in his portrait of Lewis the author. To those who have leisure and endurance for the entomed outgrowth of an Oxford PhD thesis, and ample interest in The Chronicles and Lewis himself, I recommend Ward's book.
One of the praises quoted on the back of the dust jacket says, "Michael Ward presents an absorbing, learned analysis of C. S. Lewis's best-selling and beloved series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Readily accessible to the average reader, Ward's book reads so much like a detective story that it's difficult to put down."
I agree with the first sentence of this review, and for that reason readily recommend it. The second I affirm only inasmuch as "ready accessibility" means we can get it on Amazon for less than twenty dollars. As much as I enjoy the writing of someone who easily makes up verbs like "endragon," Ward's book still reads like an Oxford PhD thesis. And I did not experience the "detective story" until the final chapter, where Ward tells us the story of how he discovered the secret theme behind Narnia. Thus the first ten or eleven chapters are icing on the cake; then again, the icing is my favorite part of the cake.
Ward's analysis of Lewis' authorship asserts that Lewis believed that although God is very present in all of human life, the divine is not something best described or experienced directly. God and divine power in life can only be known indirectly. Throughout his book, Ward uses the analogy of appreciating the power of light by looking "along" a beam rather than "at" the beam. Perhaps the best way to grasp the value of light is to see what it illumines rather than what comprises it. Thus light itself is a "hidden" reality, like the divine in our lives is "hidden" in the mundane.
As someone who preaches the story of Christ--rather than rational principles of Christianity--I resonate with this indirectness of the presence of God. In spite of the skew nature of truth, I am called to tell the story again and again in the hope that, perhaps like Lewis, listeners will at last hear the underlying theme of redemption, to their jovial pleasure.
Thanks to Kyle for introducing me to the book and lending me his copy.