#Tuesdaybookblog ‘A Grief Observed’ by C. S. Lewis #BookReview #Memoir @Audible

This is a short and intense first person account of C S Lewis’s (1898-1963) emotional journey as a result of his beloved wife’s death. Lewis was a British writer, best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, who was professor of English literature at both Oxford and Cambridge University. 

The Chronicles of Narnia Adult Box Set

From the blurb

Written after his wife’s tragic death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moments”, A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. This work contains his concise, genuine reflections on that period: “Nothing will shake a man, or at any rate a man like me, out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.”

This is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.

My Review

A Grief Observed is a heartfelt memoir of the loss of his wife. It is the agonising experience of death as told by a highly intelligent, devout Catholic, who was also very much in love with his wife at her death. Lewis lays out his bare feelings honestly and poignantly.  This is the first paragraph:

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

He then tries to make sense or accept her death from a religious point of view:

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.  

His wife had cancer and she knew she was dying, and they had discussed it before it happened, but once she was gone, he learns that no amount of prior discussion prepares you for the death of the person you love. He is plagued with the uncertainty of her whereabouts after death, as he tries to rationalise his religious beliefs and the reality and pain of her loss:

‘Where is she now?’ That is, in what place is she at the present time? But if H. is not a body—and the body I loved is certainly no longer she—she is in no place at all. And ‘the present time’ is a date or point in our time series. 

Finally, he tells us she had come to terms with her own death at least there is some hope in the ending. These are the last lines:

How wicked it would be, if we could, to call the dead back! She said not to me but to the chaplain, ‘I am at peace with God.’ She smiled, but not at me. Poi si tornò all’ eterna fontana.

The last words, Poi si torno all eterna fontana, mean “And then she returned to the Eternal Fount,” which were the last words of Dante’s Divine Comedy, when Beatrice returns to heaven.

Nevertheless, it is the living who find no consolation.

A Grief Observed

I listened to it twice on Audible brilliantly read by Ralf Cosham  and also read the kindle version.

It is not an easy book to listen to, but I believe it could be very helpful for anyone who is working their way through grief because Lewis expresses his grief honestly and eloquently. And people who are suffering loss often cannot find words to express their pain, which leads to a sense of helplessness. If we can out our pain into words thereby verbalising our pain it will be easier to understand and gradually overcome the grief, and as I said in yesterday’s post on ‘6 Ways to Recover from Grief’, we have to walk through the stages of grief, and move forward until the love we feel when we remember is greater than the pain we feel for the loss.  

 A Grief Observed is not for everyone, I warn you it is raw and devastating, but it has 2,500 reviews and 80% are five stars written by people who found the book helpful for their own grieving process.   

His wife was the American poet Joy Davidman

I’ve just discovered this fictionalised account of their relationship and marriage, which is now on my TBR list. 

#MondayMotivation ‘Happy International Women’s Day 2021’ Isabel Allende ‘Soul of a Woman’ #MondayBlogs #IWD2021

For the women I love,

And the women I have loved and will love,

For my mother, who fought to be free,

For my sister who died

Before freedom was grasped,

For my friends, whose love I crave,

For my colleagues, whose support I need,

For readers who devour our adventures,

For writers who spread their stories,

For my daughters who were born free,

For my granddaughter, who must remember

To share our journeys,

And for everyone who is lucky enough

to have a woman in their lives,

Happy Day and Happy Life,

I’m proud of you all.

****

Today I’m sharing a very special book, by a very special writer. Soul of a Woman by one of my favourite writers, the fabulous Isabel Allende.

The Soul of a Woman by [Isabel Allende]

From the Blurb

When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating,” begins Isabel Allende. As a child, she watched her mother, abandoned by her husband, provide for her three small children without “resources or voice.” Isabel became a fierce and defiant little girl, determined to fight for the life her mother couldn’t have.

As a young woman coming of age in the late 1960s, she rode the second wave of feminism. Among a tribe of like-minded female journalists, Allende for the first time felt comfortable in her own skin, as they wrote “with a knife between our teeth” about women’s issues. She has seen what the movement has accomplished in the course of her lifetime. And over the course of three passionate marriages, she has learned how to grow as a woman while having a partner, when to step away, and the rewards of embracing one’s sexuality.

I listened to The Soul of A woman on Audible. It is a short but intense memoir of her feminist journey and includes topics that would interest women of any age, such as womanhood, feminism, parenting, and she also discusses aging and love.

This wonderful little book is full of real-life experiences, knowledge and insight of one of the most fascinating contemporary authors writing in Spanish, although she speaks perfect English and all her novels have been translated into English.

Isabel Allende reminds us that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers paved the way for us, and there is still is a lot to be done, all over the world, but young women today, especially in countries which enjoy greater social freedom must be reminded of what previous generations have done and are still doing to further equality.

I like her inclusive idea of Feminism, which is not against men who are also victims of patriarchy, but in favour of women and our struggle to be seen and heard.

Listen to Isabel speaking about the Soul of a Woman.

Take care and stay safe.

Here’s the link if you’d like to read my other posts on #MondayBlogs and on #PersonalGrowth 

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#Tuesdaybookblog ‘Green Lights’ by Matthew #BookReview #Memoir @Audible

From the Academy Award®-winning actor, written and narrated by Matthew McConaughey, an unconventional memoir filled with raucous stories, outlaw wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction.

Greenlights Audiobook By Matthew McConaughey cover art

From the blurb

I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.

Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.

It’s a love letter. To life.

The Gentlemen | Official Trailer [HD] | Own it NOW on Digital HD, Blu-ray &  DVD - YouTube

My Review

Green Lights is a (half)-Life Story, brilliantly written and read by Matthew McConaughey. From his childhood to his existential 50th year, he tells us about the moments which made him the man and the actor he is and will be.

A one-way ticket to the desert is a great place to write a book or a memoir with no interruptions, except your own memories.

Green Lights was poignant, hilarious, enthralling, thought provoking, optimistic, and overall compellingly written and engagingly narrated. 

No name dropping or hard feelings from this real southern gentleman. By the way, The Gentlemen, is my favourite film, so far, but I expect there will be even better ones in store.

What more can I say? Well done Mr McConaughey! Keep acting and writing. There are plenty more green lights ahead!

#TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ by Heather Morris @Audible

I’d heard about this novel when it first came out, but it was after recently listening to an interview by Richard Armitage, who is the narrator on Audible, that I decided to purchase it with my monthly credit, and I’m so glad I did. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is more than a book, it’s an emotional experience.

BLURB

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

 

****

My Review

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is one of the most emotional love stories I’ve ever read. It’s about Lale and Gita, both from Bratislava, who meet and fall in love in a concentration camp in Poland.

It’s the story of Lale’s resourcefulness, strength, tenacity, goodness and love for Gita, during the three years they spent in the camp, and how he found her again when they lost touch after leaving Auschwitz.

It’s also about the horrors of war, the cruelty humans are capable of, and the need to take risks and compromise in order to survive.

The struggle for survival in extreme situations is complex and unimaginable for those who have never experienced it. The emotional and psychological cost of that survival is just as unimaginably distressing, and also comes across in the narrative. 

Yet the end of the novel, the epilogue and their son’s testimony, makes it ultimately an uplifting novel, because there is more gratitude and faith in the future than bitterness or desire for vengeance about the past.

In the end it’s not a novel about war or evil, it’s about the power of love.

Did I tell you I listened to the audio version brilliantly read by Richard Armitage?

US Buy link

UK Buy link

Read more of my #TuesdayBookBlog reviews.