Book Note: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis



C.S. Lewis is a Christian favorite. I’ve met few Christian readers who can’t stand any part of his work. I’ve read his Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, The Joyful Christian, and The Great Divorce. The Screwtape Letters is probably his more recognized piece of fiction behind the Chronicles of Narnia, but I have to admit that it’s my least favorite.

The acute philosophical arguments and observations are still present. I appreciate the difficulty of the challenge that he undertook in writing this book from a perspective completely contrary to his faith (the fiends of Hell). The clarity is exceptional in Lewis’ consistent style of using allegory and metaphor to explain deeper meaning and truth of Christian belief.

Basically, even though it’s my least favorite Lewis-read so far, it’s still well worth the time spent to read it. The book is written as a series of letters from one of Satan’s minions working in an administrative branch of Hell (ironically, referred to as a promotion with the understanding that the more miserable they are the better they feel) to his nephew who is serving as a new Tempter. The nephew is responsible for manipulating a recent Christian convert. The insights that Uncle Screwtape provide as effective means of persuasion are uncomfortably insightful.

While I can’t think of a more succinct and provocative way of writing this material, I found it difficult to maintain focus and interest over an extended period of reading because of the constant stop/start feel to the reading. There may have been a dose of conviction in there, too, to muddy the sentiments.

It’s daring and demonic. It’s clear and convicting. It’s good and bad. It’s worth a read and worth some reflection (maybe a lot of reflection). For me, it just didn’t surpass the other great fiction pieces that I have read from C.S. Lewis.

7 Responses to “Book Note: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis”

  1. laura

    If you ever read his scifi trilogy the 3rd is my favorite. I don’t remember much of the first and the second is a really heavy handed allegory of “the Fall” which is only interesting because of the location. But the 3rd one is highly original (and includes Merlin in modern-ish day England).

    • RebeccaV

      I’ll add it to my list – I have yet to read something from Lewis that I absolutely could not tolerate, but scifi definitely is not a genre I’m well-versed in so could be interesting.

  2. sfkeefer

    Interesting, the Screwtape Letters is one of my favorites by C.S. Lewis, but maybe thats because I read it more like a devotional than a novel. I’d read a letter or two with breakfast before school and it provided engaging daydreams during boring classes. It gave me plenty of thinking material and in small doses it didn’t overwhelm me like some theology books I had attempted to make headway in around the same time. I didn’t see his “adult” sci-fi series on your list of C.S. Lewis reads, they would definitely round out your Lewis collection 🙂

    • RebeccaV

      Looks like I’m adding his scifi trilogy since two people recommended it. I could see how a devotional approach could work, but it just wasn’t one I’d put with my favorites. I’ll probably be the oddball in book club tonight…oh well 🙂

      • sfkeefer

        Being the oddball is great, it adds spice to any discussion 🙂 My “oddball” book is Dracula. I can’t stand that book, no matter how many literature classes I’ve taken that have it on the list I still think it’s tedious and awful.

  3. robstroud

    When a given author wrote so many masterpieces, it’s no surprise that even an exceptional work like The Screwtape Letters might not measure up to other portions of the collection.

    • RebeccaV

      That seems reasonable. It’s also probably why his work appeals to a wide range of people – something for almost everyone!


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