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Jan Sims

I just stumbled on a review of your book from Arts & Letters Daily and having read the excerpt here I'm eager to buy it. Just wanted to say that although I am Christian, I perfectly understand and applaud your desire to show that the books are good writing above and beyond any narrow Christian interpretation. When I finished the Last Battle (I was 10), I remember I cried for hours that Narnia was somehow "closed" to this world, but I promised myself I would find my way to my own magic world. Falling in love with Narnia for me was the beginning of a lifelong desire to write a "fairy tale" equal to Lewis's. I have not yet done that, but I continue to practice writing in that genre for all the reasons Lewis preferred it. Children who have fallen in love with Rowling's lengthy Potter series will no doubt develop a lifelong admiration for wordier prose, but in my heart of hearts, Lewis will always be the superior writer for being able to create a rich fantasy world that has lasted through generations in so few words. The chapters in the Chronicles of Narnia are remarkably short and the sentences gracefully simple, perfectly suited to children's reading skills without talking down to them. Part of the magic is that kids can read the books to themselves without a grownup telling them what they mean. Lewis taught me, without my realizing it, how allegory works and the aesthetic possibilities of nonlinear narrative. (I still fume when I look at the "renumbered" books in stores today, sorting it out chronologically for children and depriving them of the indescribable literary pleasures of prequels and sequels.)
For you, discovering the Christian themes as a teen felt like a betrayal. For me, it felt like a wonderful revelation of another layer of the stories that I figured out all by myself. No doubt my understanding of the books' spiritual dimension is quite different from some other believers' interpretations, and that is why I call the books real literature: they survive the scrutiny of all our lenses.
Some formative concepts I took away from Narnia: (a) because grownups tend to lose perspective on the possible, don't "grow up" like Susan -- stay in touch with the truth you named in yourself as a child; (b) we are all capable of staying in the shed with the dwarves and refusing to partake of joy on this earth; (c) eau de burnt Marshwiggle is good for breaking spells, so if you're prone to fantasy, have one close friend with a smelly foot firmly in the fires of reality; (c) it doesn't matter what you call the Light within, Aslan, God, or whatever, or even whether you say you believe in anything beyond yourself because the good you do and the love and courage you share with others is what really matters. In other words, Lewis taught me acceptance of many worlds. I'll try to post again after I've actually read your book!


Funny that you've just mentioned Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog in your blog entry - I am reading it, for the second time, at the same time as I'm reading The Magician's Book.

I, too, was a big Narnia fan as a child, and was never bothered by the realization that it included any overlap with the stories of Christianity ... perhaps because I have so little knowledge of those stories that even those connections that are most obvious are still mainly lost on me. You note in the book that pretty much everyone liked Last Battle least, but it's always been one of my favorites, oddly enough. I'm not sure I could say why, but to me it always seemed to have the strongest dose of 'wildness' of all the books.

I wanted into Narnia as a child and felt a little like I'd got my wish as a young teen - perhaps you know there was a summer camp in British Columbia called Camp Narnia that revolved around the books. It wasn't a Christian camp, either, and that parallel was never mentioned. The camp shut down an few years ago, sadly.


Hello Laura I found this blog very interesting, keep doing the good job.


I've been enjoying The Magician's Book immensely! Like other commenters, I felt like I'd found a 'kindred spirit' when I opened your book in a store- beginning with the epigram from the description of the Magician's book in the Voyage of the Dawn treader, which inhabited my dreams for many years.

Thanks so much for including a bibliography on this site- I was disappointed not to find at least some 'notes for further reading' in the published version.


I just finished listening to a podcast of your discussion with Bob Edwards of the best books of 2008. It was wonderful and got me curious about your new book, which is how I ended up at your website.

I love your "Journal" section and will have to spend some time reading all of the back entries (and following all of the links to your articles and essays located elsewhere). It's wonderful to read the opinions and musings of someone who so obviously has a true love of reading. I also plan to go out this weekend and get a copy of "The Magician's Book" so I can enjoy it for myself.

Thanks for increasing the worthwhile content on the web!

Julie DuVall

I just finished the book today and enjoyed it immensely. It was wonderful to find a "kindred spirit" whose experiences with Narnia so closely mirror my own.

One thing that you didn't touch on: the differences between the English and American versions of the books. They aren't many but were enough to puzzle me as a child; why, for instance, was the name of the Wolf in 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe' changed from Maugrim to Fenris Ulf? I've always wondered why publishers feel the need to Americanize British books for children ... most of what appealed to me about Narnia and other books was their Britishness, that slight flavor of foreignness.

Susan McCarthy

I'm enjoying the book tremendously, including many of the asides -- the thoughtful (children as recent immigrants from the nation of the wordless) and the funny (milk-white lambes as impractical travel companions).


i just won a copy of your book on goodreads, and i'm really excited to read it! i wrote my thesis on pullman, so i think this will be really interesting. congratulations on the good reviews!

Richard Johnson

There's an interesting discussion of your book (and most interesting, of people's different Magician's Books) on the Bookfinder Insider list, a place for used book dealers. You can subscribe at this link: http://www.bookfinder.com/interact/lists/insider/. And then you'll need to dig back a bit to find the relevant posts.

Alex Roda

Culling books: Is Barnaby Rudge the only Dickens you haven't read? And what are your favorites?

I really enjoy the fantastical element in the later novels, so The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a great favorite. And the moodiness of Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Great Expectations keep them on my reread list as well.

Richard Johnson

It really is a book now. My copy from Amazon arrived in the mail Saturday (although I didn't get it in my hands until today). And the local library lists it as "Just received."

The cover's really wonderful. I liked the thumbnail on the site, but it only gives a hint of what it's like in person. Congratulations. And good luck with your upcoming bookstore appearances.


A few years before you were miserably wishing to go to Narnia, you could have a found tearful young girl in Brooklyn, pressing the back of the armoire in her parlor, desperate to enter that same land. My feeling then, although I could not articulate it, was that the failing was my own: a lack of faith. So, in a way, the Narnia books, pulled me out of the innocence of childhood into the world of uncertain adulthood.
And as Pullman writes, there was a way back, thru my own hard work and creativity. I only wish that LEWIS had told me. It might have saved many years of angst for being expelled from Paradise.


I wanted to leave a comment for your journal section but clicking on Trackback got me nowhere.
Culling books: I recently bit the bullet and gave away the Journey of Marco Polo. I've been carrying it around for years, believing I would read it.

Laura Miller

Richard: I don't really like the movies, mostly for the predictable reason that they don't match my mental images of the books (which are completely shaped by Pauline Baynes' illustrations). They're way too derivative of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films, which means that they have the heavy, almost Teutonic feeling of Middle-earth rather than the lightness of touch that I associate with Narnia.

Richard Johnson

It's exciting to thing that the book will be available in just a couple weeks.

I wonder if you, and others, have found the movies as disappointing as I have. The first one was OK -- good in parts -- but the second was mediocre, the trees and the river being almost the only highlights.

Lori Leibovich

Not only is this a gorgeous site -- Mignon, you're brilliant! -- but the book has the loveliest cover I've ever seen. When I'm done reading the book I might just have to frame it.

Sara O'Leary

Great site! I'm looking forward to the book.


thank you for the pictures, the one's that possibly inspired CS Lewis. I too, found those books magical, and so wanted to go there. WHen my girls were old enough, they read the entire series as well. For years i wondered what turkish delight was. I look forward to reading your book.

Caterina Fake

I've pre-ordered my copy! It looks fantastic. I was a Narnia-lover too. The book I read 100X was Harriet The Spy.

Ruth Henrich

Wow, gorgeous site. The book must be coming soon. Yay!

Karen Templer

Look at this beautiful site. Laura, I don't know if I knew you had a book coming out -- I can't wait to read it and will be sure to request a copy!

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The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia




In 2006, I traveled to England and Ireland in search of the places that inspired Narnia. I began in Oxford, where C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles, and went on to Northern Ireland, where he grew up. Lewis always maintained that the Counties Down and Antrim were the models for Narnia, especially the area around the Mourne Mountains near the Lough of Carlingford. Others (such as his illustrator, Pauline Baynes), seem to see it as more English. Here are some of the photographs I took during my trip.