Non-Fiction Review: The Fellowship

The Fellowship by Philip Zaleski
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams 
by Philip Zaleski , Carol Zaleski 

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

I read this book by listening to the audiobook, and really enjoyed the voice of the narrator and the structure of the book. Following a chronological and sometimes topical format, this book covers the lives of four of the most famous members of the Inklings. Starting from their childhoods and following them through both World Wars, their academic careers, and their writing, this book also includes details of their family lives and personal friendships right up until their deaths.

I already know a lot about these men, because Tolkien and Lewis are my two favorite authors, and I’ve already read other biographies about the Inklings. But I was really impressed with the depth of information and careful research in this book. There are some really wonderful details and anecdotes that bring these historical figures close to the reader.
And the author doesn’t shy away from the less than pleasant aspects of these men’s lives, their bad behavior at times, their poor choices, or their bad habits; but instead includes those things as a larger picture of who these people became, and how their lives developed, and how God worked in them and through them.

I have never liked Charles Williams or Owen Barfield. They were both “Christians” who believed some really weird things, like reincarnation and alchemy, and I never understood why Lewis and Tolkien were friends with them. This book helped me understand some of Williams and Barfield’s better points, and how their intellectual prowess would attract friends like Lewis. I still don’t like them, but I feel like I know a little more about the overall dynamic of the Inklings group, and why those friendships flourished despite religious differences.

The writing is excellent! Concise and forceful, each word serves a purpose, weaving a story of these imaginative writers and their little Oxford world.

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