Format: Paperback (Chronicles of Narnia Collection)
I Categorized It As: Science Fiction/Fantasy, KidLit, and Classic
My Rating: 4/5
This book, recommended for ages 8 and up, was a family read-aloud; it’s a tribute to the novel that it was as enjoyable for our 19-year-old as for the 9-year-old. It is a prequel to the other books in the “Chronicles of Narnia” series and is somewhat lighter in tone than some of the others. We enjoyed the wit and humor as well as the imaginative aspects of the story. I appreciate novels for children that respect the fact that kids are intelligent enough to absorb eloquent language and understand sarcasm and irony.
Digory is suffering through a lonely summer; his father is in India and his mother is dying. He and Polly befriend each other and explore the attic connecting their houses. They take the wrong door and stumble upon Digory’s Uncle Andrew in his study. He is experimenting with magical rings which will transport the wearer to another world, and he tricks the children into being his guinea pigs. Digory and Polly embark on a strange adventure and eventually witness the creation of Narnia.
I will always have a special affection for this novel because it is one of the books I fell in love with as a child. As an adult, I found it smart, imaginative, and humorous. The strong religious elements — including obedience to a Creator, sin, and redemption — are a bit didactic. But oddly, as a child, I didn’t notice them. Perhaps it was because, being so young and growing up with atheist parents, I didn’t recognize much of the symbolism. And as an adult, this slightly didactic quality didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story.
On the contrary, I found myself intrigued with the part where Jadis is cursed for eating the apple. Yes, the allegorical elements aren’t too subtle. 🙂 I’ve always found the story of the Garden of Eden interesting from a metaphorical standpoint — the idea of eating the fruit of knowledge and being cursed by your loss of innocence. In The Magician’s Nephew, Aslan makes reference to being cursed for tasting the fruit of knowledge at the wrong time.
Child, that is why all the rest are now a horror to her. That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Oh, the fruit is good, but they loath it ever after.
I enjoyed the implications of this. I have often heard the Garden of Eden story described as a stark tale of the consequences of disobedience to God and how we came to be a “fallen world.” However, this telling calls to mind a paternal (or maternal, if you prefer) kind of god, protecting children from gaining knowledge and experience — and losing innocence — too soon.
Maybe this series will be a springboard for family discussions of religion and spirituality later. Not being a religious person, I’ve been somewhat remiss in teaching my kids about the wealth of symbolism, storytelling, and spiritual wisdom to be found in various religious faiths.