This is one of those books that is so dense with information that I am not sure what to write about it. Joseph Loconte takes the reader back to the early lives John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and Clive Staples Lewis (more affectionately known as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis). From there he follows the story of their lives into adulthood starting with their time at University where they both continued to pursue their love of literature.
Their academic endeavors were interrupted however, by their duty to their country to serve on the front lines for what is now known as The Great War. While many young men and women their age were romanticizing the war and believing it was “A Holy War” or “The War to End All Wars”, Lewis and Tolkien held a much healthier view. They saw it as their duty to their country to fight, but the goal was to survive so they could return to their studies.
Both Tolkien and Lewis lost many friends in the war and possibly only survived themselves due to injury and/or sickness that removed them from the trenches. As we all know, God had some pretty big plans for their lives. Tolkien went into and came out of the war with a strong belief in God and, contrary to the majority of Great War survivors, did not succumb to the systemic despair and anti morality that set in to post war society.
On the other hand, Lewis, being a professing atheist at the time, probably would have identified with the views of the masses, had it not been for one late night conversation with J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien and Lewis became friends after the war and it was Tolkien that nudged Lewis down the path of rethinking his views one Christianity.
Both Tolkien and Lewis went on to write two of the most well known classic stories worldwide: The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. Greatly influenced by both their personal wartime experiences and their faith in Christ, the characters in both of these created worlds depict the inner struggle of good versus evil that exists within all of us.
I grew up reading the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and have recently been listening to the other Narnia books. I have never read LOTR, but reading this book made me want to at least listen to them on audible. Tolkien and Lewis went through more in life than most of us can imagine, but they still ended up influencing millions with their timeless tales of Hobbits and Wardrobes that may never have come to be if it had not been for A Great War.