Romances with books can be just as rocky as the human variety. Critic Laura Miller, who writes about literature for publications like Salon and the New York Times, discovered that the hard way. She fell in love with C.S. Lewis’ Narnia as a child—and then felt betrayed and duped when, as a teen, she realized that the stories she adored could be read as Christian allegories. Still, when asked to write about a book that changed her life, she returned to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe—and, to her surprise, discovered that she could still get lost in Lewis’ world.
In The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, Miller delves into Lewis’ biography, the tradition of children’s literature, the power of myth and the history of fairy tales. She also talks to fellow Narnia fans, from personal friends to well-known writers like Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke and Jonathan Franzen. The thoughtful, incisive essays explore every aspect of these novels, which, in Miller’s words, “are far larger than they seem from the outside.”
“I can’t read the Chronicles the way I once did, with the same absolute belief,” writes Miller, yet in The Magician’s Book, she vividly portrays that feeling of enchantment. More than a literary critique or an exercise in nostalgia, these essays are a tribute to the power and depth of story and imagination, and to the pure joy of reading. Though the grown critic realizes how the magician does his tricks, something of the childhood magic remains.