The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Although I distinctly remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child, I don’t recall what happens in the rest of The Chronicles of Narnia. A friend has two twin sisters in grade school and a few years ago I ordered a box set for the Chronicles through their Scholastic book order (remember those?) Last night I decided to start the series over.

I finished the book in 2 hours. Needless to say, it was good. The pacing was just right and I didn’t find the introduction and lead in to the book to be boring (because let’s be real, sometimes the only way to get through the beginning of a book is to keep reminding yourself that SOMETHING is about to happen soon.)

What else did I appreciate? I loved the allusions to the Bible. They are very subtle prior to the creation of Narnia. Once you reach that point, it’s just amazing. It’s not just my Christian faith that appreciates this. From a literary standpoint, it’s skillful and even prior to my conversion, I always had an affinity for Biblical references and allusions within texts.

The first example is when Polly and Digory visit Charn and unknowingly unleash the Empress Jadis on London and bring her to Narnia. The first thing that Jadis does after she is unfrozen is examine Digory intently, then dismissing him for not having the “Mark” of the Magician. One could argue that the “Mark of the Magician” is Lewis’ version of the “Mark of the Beast” mentioned in Revelation. This even brings the Harry Potter series into mind as some wizards that follow Voldemort are said to have the “Dark Mark” indicating their allegiance to the dark lord. The two characters in The Magician’s Nephew that have the mark are described as having a sense of pride and entitlement to whatever they want – Uncle Andrew for disregarding the old lady’s wishes and opening the box instead of burying it, Empress Jadis destroying Charn in the battle against her sister for control and choosing to kill every living thing rather than lose.

Next, in the childrens’ discovery of Narnia and their amazing experience in witnessing the creation of a new world is a full allegory for Genesis. Whatever “The Voice” sings, it comes into being. The existence of Jadis in the newly created world as the “Neevil,” and the existence of the Garden with the apple.

I didn’t realize that Digory’s sick mother would be anything more than background to create a fuller character, but the exchange between Digory and Aslan regarding his mother’s health is moving, that Aslan feels Digory’s pain, possibly even more than Digory. It’s illustrations like these that my admiration for C.S. Lewis grows from. It’s a beautiful display of how Christ knows and feels our pain as He has experienced suffering through loss and betrayal.

C.S. Lewis continues to take it away for me as favorite author as the tenets of Christianity are creatively displayed in his works, whether it be in his Space series, Narnia series, or his apologetics. Let’s just say I cannot wait to read through book 2.

Pearl of China by Anchee Min

I’m not sure how I chose to buy this book except for the fact that there was a kindle sale on Amazon and I purchased this along with the Julie Andrews biography, Home, and a post apocalyptic fiction piece.

My love for stories of China extend past The Joy Luck Club (though great) as I grew up with tales of my grandmother’s childhood and youth. I also grew to love China Men in grad school but this aspect of the novel did not stand out to me until later. Maybe it was why I chose it to begin with, who knows!

My first reaction was to the fact that this is a story about a woman whose father was a Presbyterian missionary in China who converted many. It almost seemed coincidental that this is part of Pearl Buck’s story. I didn’t even know who Pearl Buck was until mention of her Pulitzer partway through the novel spurred me to read about her on Wikipedia. What an amazing, fateful find.

The second aspect of the novel that really resonated with me is the fact that the characters lived through the communist regime. This political change in China’s history personally affected my grandparents on both sides. In fact, my paternal grandfather served in Chiang Kai sheks army and fought the Japanese. All four grandparents fled to Taiwan and years later my parents somehow met in the land of opportunities — America.

The turmoil of the Chinese people during the Chinese civil war seemed to be presented so differently in this book. It was harsh to read that the Nationalists were responsible for much Chinese brutality against their own people as well as foreigners. I suppose Min helps illustrate how and why Mao Tze Teng was so widely received by the “proletarians” until he could no longer hide his hunger for power.

In a way, she sought to share the same perspective Pearl S Buck did in her books. Politics aside, the Chinese people suffered under both parties quest for power and control.

It was interesting to read her version of what happened at Tiananmen Square. It was also very sad to hear about the torturous conditions and the stripping of dignity that prison camps had to offer. Not many novels can go into such true detail. It is something we must not avoid or run away from if we are to understand and learn.

Though historical fiction, Anchee Min does a great job of telling the story through Chinese eyes as she seeks out to do per her author’s note. I am thankful to have come across this book so fatefully and cannot wait to read Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth.”