Archive for May, 2010


As I told you amazing Toefl students we were supposed to dedicate this couple of weeks to read one of the books written by C. S. Lewis. Below you shall find his bio, some interesting videos, a biographical movie Shadowlands and finally the 4 books, in which you have to choose one.

Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963), commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as Jack, was an Irish-born British novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist.

Lewis was a close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, and both authors were leading figures in the English faculty at Oxford University and in the informal Oxford literary group known as the “Inklings”. According to his memoir Surprised by Joy, Lewis had been baptised in the Church of Ireland at birth, but fell away from his faith during his adolescence. Owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, at the age of 32 Lewis returned to Christianity, becoming “a very ordinary layman of the Church of England”.His conversion had a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim.

In 1956, he married the American writer Joy Gresham, 17 years his junior, who died four years later of cancer at the age of 45.


Lewis died three years after his wife, as the result of renal failure. His death came one week before his 65th birthday. Media coverage of his death was minimal, as he died on 22 November 1963 – the same day that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the same day another famous author died, Aldous Huxley. Lewis’s works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies over the years.












A Grief Observed, first published in 1961, is a collection of C.S. Lewis‘s reflections on the experience of bereavement following the death in 1960 of his wife, Joy Gresham, from bone cancer.

In order to avoid identification as the author, Lewis published the book under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk, referring to his wife throughout as H (her first name being Helen). Lacking an identifiable author, the book sold poorly in Great Britain. After Lewis’s death in 1963, the book was republished under his own name, and was also published in the United States. It has remained continuously in print ever since.

The book consists of the contents of four manuscript books (or notebooks) in which Lewis expounds on his grief, from the everyday difficulties of his life without Joy, to deep-set questions of faith and theodicy. The indefinite article in the title serves to make it clear that Lewis’s grief is not the quintessential grief experience at the loss of a loved one, but one individual’s perspective among countless others.







In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis provides a series of lessons in the importance of taking a deliberate role in living out Christian faith by portraying a typical human life, with all its temptations and failings, as seen from devils’ viewpoints. Screwtape holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy (“Lowerarchy”) of Hell, and acts as a mentor to Wormwood, the inexperienced tempter. In the body of the thirty-one letters which make up the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and promoting sin in the Patient, interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine. Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither demon is capable of comprehending or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it.







Mere Christianity began as a series of radio talks that Lewis presented on the BBC during World War II. His purpose was to explain the essential elements of the Christian faith, that is, “mere” or basic Christianity, without getting into the particular beliefs of various denominations.  The book begins by presenting what has often been called the moral argument for the existence of God. Humans have a moral oughtness within us which proves that right and wrong exist. This standard is not something we developed ourselves or that evolved in human society, so it must come from outside of us; namely, from God. However, we fail to live up to this standard, so God sent a Savior to make us right.








The Problem of Pain, the first of a series of popular works on Christian doctrine, was written in 1940, twenty years before his beloved wife, Joy Davidman, died of cancer in the third year of their short-lived marriage. In the book Lewis considers the problem of suffering from a purely theoretical standpoint. Years later, struck with a daunting grief of a mourning husband he will write another classic on pain, a masterpiece of introspection: A Grief Observed. It takes courage to live through suffering; and it takes honesty to observe it. C. S. Lewis had both.

The main argument of The Problem of Pain is preceded by a presentation of an atheist objection to the existence of God based on the observable futility of the universe. The book starts on a personal note: “Not many years ago when I was an atheist … “. There follows a compelling picture of a universe filled with futility and chance, darkness and cold, misery and suffering; a spectacle of civilizations passing away, of human race scientifically condemned to a final doom and of a universe bound to die. Thus, “either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit”. On the other hand, “if the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? […] The spectacle of the universe as revealed by experience can never have been ground for religion: it must always have been something in spite of which religion, acquired from a different source, was held”. But, where should we look for the sources?







The Chronicles of Narnia have been in continuous publication since 1954 and have sold over 100 million copies in 41 languages. The books were written by Lewis between 1949 and 1954 but were written in neither the order they were originally published nor in the chronological order in which they are currently presented.



The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, completed in the winter of 1949 and published in 1950, tells the story of four ordinary children: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie. They discover a wardrobe in Professor Digory Kirke’s house that leads to the magical land of Narnia. The Pevensie children help Aslan, a talking lion, save Narnia from the evil White Witch, who has reigned over the kingdom of Narnia for a century of perpetual winter. The children become kings and queens of this new-found land and leave a legacy to be rediscovered in later books.



Completed in the autumn of 1949 and published in 1951, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia tells the story of the Pevensie children’s second trip to Narnia. They are drawn back by the power of Susan’s horn, blown by Prince Caspian to summon help in his hour of need. Narnia as they knew it is no more. Their castle is in ruins and all the dryads have retreated so far within themselves that only Aslan’s magic can wake them. Caspian has fled into the woods to escape his uncle, Miraz, who had usurped the throne. The children set out once again to save Narnia.



Completed in the winter of 1950 and published in 1952, The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ returns Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their priggish cousin, Eustace Scrubb, to Narnia. Once there, they join Caspian’s voyage to find the seven lords who were banished when Miraz took over the throne. This perilous journey brings them face to face with many wonders and dangers as they sail toward Aslan’s country at the end of the world.



Completed in the spring of 1951 and published in 1953, The Silver Chair is the first Narnia book without the Pevensie children. Instead, Aslan calls Eustace back to Narnia together with his classmate Jill Pole. There they are given four signs to aid in the search for Prince Rilian, Caspian’s son, who disappeared after setting out ten years earlier to avenge his mother’s death. Eustace and Jill, with the help of Peddleglum the Marsh-wiggle, face danger and betrayal before finding Rilian.



Completed in the spring of 1950 and published in 1954, The Horse and His Boy takes place during the reign of the Pevensies in Narnia, an era which begins and ends in the last chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The story is about Bree, a talking horse, and a young boy named Shasta, both of whom have been held in bondage in Calormen. By chance, they meet each other and plan their return to Narnia and freedom. Along the way they meet Aravis and her talking horse Hwin who are also escaping to Narnia.



Completed in the winter of 1954 and published in 1955, the prequel The Magician’s Nephew brings the reader back to the very beginning of Narnia where we learn how Aslan created the world and how evil first entered it. Digory Kirke and his friend Polly Plummer stumble into different worlds by experimenting with magic rings made by Digory’s uncle, encounter Jadis (The White Witch) in the dying world of Charn, and witness the creation of Narnia. Many long-standing questions about Narnia are answered in the adventure that follows.



Completed in the spring of 1953 and published in 1956, The Last Battle chronicles the end of the world of Narnia. Jill and Eustace return to save Narnia from Shift, an ape, who tricks Puzzle, a donkey, into impersonating the lion Aslan, precipitating a showdown between the Calormenes and King Tirian.






Categories: 11. TOEFL


The book is about a 12-year-old girl named Meggie Folchart whose life changes dramatically when she realizes that her father, a bookbinder named Mortimer (Mo), has an unusual ability: when he reads aloud, he can bring characters from books into the real world. Meggie and Mo’s adventure takes them throughout Europe, particularly Italy, and brings them into contact with many unusual characters.







Jane was IN SEVENTH HEAVEN. Jack had just POPPED THE QUESTION and she had said yes. They wanted to get married as soon as possible, but knew that Jane’s parents would want to SPARE NO EXPENSE for their only daughter’s wedding. Organizing this could take a long time and both Jane and Jack would have preferred an informal occasion. Still, Jane THOUGHT THE WORLD OF her family and would agree to a large wedding if the wanted one. The young couple was hoping to KEEP their engagement UNDER WRAPS until they could tell both sets of parents in person next day. However, they were smiling so happily that their friends guessed that they had some good news and asked what it was. Eventually Jane’s best friend, Mary, made her COME CLEAN and everyone congratulated the happy couple. They begged their friends not to tell anyone else but Mary LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG and the news spread rapidly round the town. By the time Jane and Jack arrived for lunch next day both sets of parents were already IN THE KNOW. Realizing that the young people would want to tell them of their engagement themselves, the parents pretended to know nothing about it. Since Jane and Jack had been dating for some time, both families had suspected that an engagement was ON THE CARDS. Now that it had actually been announced, they all looked forward to the happy day when the couple would TIE THE KNOT.


Vocab Definition

  • In seventh heaven – extremely happy or delighted

  • Pop the question – to ask someone to marry you

  • Spare no expense – to spend whatever sum of money it takes to what one wants without worrying about the cost of this

  • Think the world of – to be very found of someone

  • Keep something under wraps – to keep something secret

  • Come clean – to tell the truth about something, to confess

  • Let the cat out of the bag – to reveal a secret, often unintentionally

  • In the know – having information known only to a small group of people

  • On the cards – very likely to happen

  • Tie the knot – to get married


Now it is your turn. Write up a short paragraph using at least 10 idioms in context. You can make up whatever you want. Enjoy it!

Categories: 11. TOEFL