by Joseph Loconte
This is heartbreaking to read, because it gives such detailed personal accounts of the war, the suffering and fear they went through, and the terrible losses of friends and family. But it is also wonderfully interesting to learn about the history of that time, and the misguided Utopian philosophies that were shattered by the war.
I was impressed with the scholarly yet accessible writing style, and the way in which the historical and personal information was organized and presented in each chapter. This clearly explained how Tolkien’s and Lewis’ personal experiences were entwined in the larger story of the war, and the popular philosophies and political thinking of the time.
It was wonderful seeing the parallels between the fictional worlds of Narnia and Middle-Earth and the real wartime experiences of Tolkien and Lewis. There is a heavy emphasis on not just the physical suffering during war, but also the mental and emotional pain exacerbated by small annoyances on the battlefront. All this is tempered by the fierce friendships, close bonds, and sudden joyful reunions of soldiers who endured these things together.
I love the way that suffering is transformed into joy, both in Tolkien and Lewis’ real life and in their stories. It is shown again and again that God’s presence transcends earthly suffering and brings spiritual joy to those who know Him. It was inspiring to read how Tolkien and Lewis survived these hellish experiences, threw off the cynical philosophy of their generation, and embraced the happiness that only Christ can bring.