We spoke to writer and journalist Melanie Hewitt about our book Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan. Melanie really shared our passion for Joy’s story and after reading this book, we really wanted to share Melanie’s review of this wonderful book with you all.
‘Becoming Mrs Lewis’ is one of those books I didn’t know I was waiting for until I’d read it.
If I thought about Joy Davidman at all she was the feisty, gifted and independent writer who captured the heart of CS Lewis (Jack). More than a muse, but seemingly always presented as a part of the story of a legendary figure, rarely – if ever – as a person with her own history, ambitions and intriguing complexity.
There was also, for me, the bigger question of how two people who on paper are worlds apart, the children of very different times and backgrounds could, after a lifetime of searching – or trying not to seek – find ‘home’ and hope in each other.
Patti Callahan’s book is diligently and empathetically researched – but the impressive breadth of knowledge never overwhelms the narrative. Joy’s thoughts are effortlessly evoked and shared, drawing us in and within the first few pages establishing a bond with the reader that is real and immediate. We care about her – how could we not?
Oxford is brought to life in all its moods and through every season. Anyone who’s had the privilege of visiting The Kilns, Lewis’ home, will recognise it here. This is one of the many strengths of the book, an almost cinematic description of places and events. Scenes are so beautifully evoked you are walking alongside Joy and Jack, you can smell the air and feel the muddy ground of Shotover Hill beneath your feet.
Joy – in every mood and circumstance – has been brought to life in these pages, but more than that the author has mapped the development of a heart and mind. This then becomes the study of the power of two minds in concert. All of this is done with consummate ease and skill.
The book is also semantically and structurally a delight – a rare and lovely thing, delivering something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. An instant classic and future benchmark for any future work about this astonishing woman.
This book will bring joy equally to those who know the story and work of Joy and Jack and those who don’t. Whichever category you fall into, this book will intrigue, inform and engage.
At its heart is a woman looking for her truth – with talent and tenacity, yes – but also vulnerability. A woman always destined to be the subject and centre of her own life, not just a postscript to someone else’s.
Patti Callahan has served Joy Davidman well and in doing so has placed her at her husband’s side – his equal, his partner. She has stepped out of the Shadowlands.
Words by Melanie Hewitt FRSA
Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan publishes on 16th May 2019.