Since Joy Davidman is known to most readers as the woman C.S. Lewis married late in life and lost to cancer four years after that marriage, it is likely that many readers will pick up Joy Davidman’s letters out of fondness for her husband’s Narnia stories or popular theology.  They will quickly find that the letters chronicle a life of considerable interest in itself.  Davidman was an award-winning writer herself, a secular Jew and atheist who turned hopefully to communism and then wholeheartedly to Christianity in her later years, though remaining skeptical—and acerbic—about church people.  The fact that she remained friends with her first husband after their difficult marriage broke up resulted in many of the letters in the collection, which include material Lewis fans will be glad to see, though it offers little intimate information about their lives except that they were devoted to one another through her painful final years with breast cancer.  Her account of that last illness is often matter-of-fact; she writes as though it is one of the less interesting parts of her life, which was full of intellectual pursuits, including editing some of Lewis’s later works, and of practical concerns that included caring for her two boys with whom she emigrated to England from New York.  


Though the letters concerning Davidman’s illness occur only late in the book, they are worth reading for the insight they provide into a woman determined fully to live her dying.  During her final two years Davidman traveled first to Ireland and then to Greece to fulfill a life’s dream, and maintained correspondence, conversation, and a lively partnership with a famous husband who cherished her.  Her story is one of spiritual and intellectual resilience, if anything strengthened by the devastating illness that finally took her life.


A Grief Observed, Lewis's account of his journey with grief in the first weeks after Davidian's death, is one of his most widely read books.


W.B. Eerdmans

Place Published

Grand Rapids, MI




Don W. King

Page Count