Book Review: The Inklings

The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Their Friends by Humphrey Carpenter

Harper Collins, 2006

I re-read this book after perhaps a decade, and it’s still a fantastic read.  If you’re a fan of Tolkien and Lewis (or Charles Williams) then this is a fascinating insight into their lives together in a weekly literary group called The Inklings.  They would gather to drink beer, read to one another from their works in progress, and engage in spirited debates on issues pertinent to their fields and current events.  Because the author completed a separate biography specifically of Tolkien, Tolkien figures less in this book than Lewis or even Williams.

I came away from this biography feeling as though I knew Lewis a little better.  I haven’t read any of Williams’ works but he figures prominently in this biography as well, along with – to a lesser extent – Lewis’ older brother Warnie.  In the older edition that I have there are some great black and white photos of Lewis and the various other people mentioned in this biography.  Carpenter is a skilled and engaging biographer, so that the book reads quickly.  I’m not a big biography buff, yet this book kept my attention throughout.  Carpenter draws his information from research in the diaries of the various figures in the book as well as from personal interviews, providing an inside-glimpse from as close to the perspective of the people involved as possible.

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