A Year With Aslan: Daily Reflections From The Chronicles Of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. Perhaps if I had read this book over the course of a year rather than over the course of a lunch break and then early evening, I would have liked this book more. But as someone who once (as an adult) devoured all seven of the Narnia books in the course of a single evening after having read them in my youth, I preferred the experience of reading the entire chronicles in their chronological (if not publishing) order rather than the experience here of reading many fragments from all seven Narnia novels in a jumbled up format with reflective questions at the end of them. That is not to say by any means that this collection is a bad one. On the contrary, the editor of the book, Julia Roller, did a fine job in collecting worthwhile passages from the stories that sometimes go together. Call me old fashioned, though, but I prefer to read a great collection of stories like that of the Chronicles of Narnia to be in narrative form (as they were written) rather than chopped up like word magnets on a fridge.
This book is organized like a devotional collection, although instead of biblical quotes or short essays, the page (or more) a day devotional includes various passages from the seven novels of the Chronicles of Narnia. All of the novels are included roughly equally, and sometimes one passage will be followed by the passage in the book that follows it, although more often the passages will scatter between all the books in such a way as to be incoherent when read mostly all at once as I did–I read the first month’s worth at the end of my lunch break after finishing another book and read the remaining eleven months at dinner. Some of the passages are short paragraphs (like that of July 16, where a passage from A Horse And His Boy shows the Prince wanting Susan so badly) while others go on for two pages. The months are all separated and the questions asked are good enough. If this book is less than the sum of its parts, and it is, it is because of the haphazard construction of the passages rather than the lack of worth of the passages individuality.
But again, the issues with this text are mainly due to its structure. Do the Narnia novels really need to be turned into a collage of passages with questions attached to them? If someone wants to spend a year with Aslan, or many years with Aslan, the best response is to go out and get all of the Narnia novels and read them, and reread them as wanted. While including a great deal of the material that is in the Chronicles of Narnia in about 400 pages or so, this book leaves out what is the most exciting and worthwhile part of the stories, and that is Lewis’ easy narrative flow. You get the parts, but not the glorious and well-structured whole. This book feels like a posthumous cash grab on the part of a publisher who has the rights to Lewis’ writings and who wants to make some money off of fans of the series. Are we to expect devotional collections of the space trilogy or Lewis’ noted (and often unsigned) book reviews, or his apologetic materials? Perhaps we will see a book like A Year With Screwtape? Just give me Lewis’ books, not a feast of scraps like this one.