Tumnus’ Bookshelf: The NarniaFans Book Reviews: C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell: A Companion and Study Guide to The Screwtape Letters by William O’Flaherty


Hey, everybody! Welcome back to Tumnus’ Bookshelf, where we review any and all books written by, about, and inspired by C.S. Lewis, The Land of Narnia, and The Inklings. For today’s review, we will be looking at the new companion commentary C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell: A Companion and Study Guide to The Screwtape Letters by William O’Flaherty.

Title: C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell: A Companion and Study Guide to The Screwtape Letters

Author: William O’Flaherty

Publisher: Winged Lion Press, LLC (March 15, 2016)

ISBN-10:  1935688111

ISBN-13: 978-1935688112

 

Summary:

From William O’Flaherty, host of the All About Jack Podcast, comes C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell: A Companion and Study Guide to The Screwtape Letters. Consisting of a lengthy glossary of topics and terms in the letters and a series of robust discussion questions, the commentary helps readers probe the deeper questions dealt with the book. O’Flaherty also shares with readers a series of fun facts, his own personal thoughts on the work, some background on the lesser known sequel to Screwtape, and tops it all off with his own original short story. While not a critical analysis, O’Flaherty invites readers and discussion groups to examine the Letters for themselves to learn what lessons they need from C.S. Lewis’ timeless work.screwtapecommentary

 

Review.

 

It goes without saying that books analyzing C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series and his non-fiction have produced a bumper crop not only among Christians but scholars. Few, however, have sought to analyze what Lewis even considered his most troubling work, The Screwtape Letters.  Like its titular character, the book is sly and tricky, thanks in no small part to it being a satirical epistolary novel, written from the point of view of a demon. Fans almost need a study guide to help navigate those eerie halls of the Inferno.

Finally, after many years, that deficit is finally beginning to be addressed. CS Lewis Goes to Hell by William O’Flaherty is a brand new book that acts as such a companion commentary to this classic work of diabolical correspondence. One of the features of the book is a glossary of key terms that are in the Letters that allow readers to see some of the key topics and concepts of the story. Avid Lewis fans know how Screwtape is highly quotable but at times it can be hard to remember which letter each quote comes from. This glossary helps readers find those references with ease.

From there, O’Flaherty allows readers to dive into a series of discussion questions that make up the flexible study guide for the book. There are roughly ten questions per letter, with the first five veering more towards personal reflection, while the second five are more for book discussion and church fellowship groups who wish to use the Screwtape as a lesson topic.  We are given suggested answers in section four of the book for some of the more narrative based questions, while the reflective ones are left vague in order to allow the readers to better reflect with the text. There is also a handy little section that summarizes the meat of what topic each letter is addressing. These questions help show, that despite the World War II setting of the Letters, just how relevant and timeless the book still is. Our historical background may change, but we still grapple with many of these same struggles.

Along with the discussion questions, readers will get a good wealth of information from the commentary’s appendix. That includes a fun section of 60 trivia facts about the letters that some fans may not know about the book and a brief look at the background into the lesser known sequel to the letters, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast.” But it’s O’Flaherty’s analysis of The Screwtape Letters as a whole that really hits the mark. He reminds us that the book is first and foremost a satire, and goes beyond the typical Christian approach of strictly looking at it as a handbook for spiritual warfare. Perhaps most striking in his analysis is how we see through Screwtape that humans don’t need to be “convinced” of anything and that sometimes “jargon” can be the best weapon against us.

Further, O’Flaherty isn’t looking at Screwtape through the lens of a minster. Like Lewis, he is a lay person when it comes to theology as his professional training is in mental health. He spends a good deal of time  in his own analysis looking at guilt, and while there are many topics to cover in Screwtape, that is most relatable to all readers. Studies show how guilt can affect our minds, and that in turn can affect our bodies and souls. Because of this, O’Flaherty is able to look at an aspect of the Christian life that is often overlooked, mainly the state of the believers mind.

O’Flaherty concludes his work with his own original piece, a Screwtape fan fiction of sorts. Part of analyzing a work includes trying to see for yourself if you can write a story similar to it. In this little story, Screwtape delivers a message at “Demon Chapel.” Much like Lewis himself he looks at one of our own flaws as Christians, namely our mentality to put Lewis, and likewise any other Christian writer on such a high pedestal they become gospel.  This helps hit home a key Lewis point about keeping “first things first”. Screwtape, and the Devil, really don’t care if you read C.S. Lewis or for that matter, any Christian writer. What matters more to those forces of darkness is if they can use your love for them as a form of idolatry. O’Flaherty even references the C.S. Lewis Bible that was published a few years back that ruffled the feathers of many Lewis fans.

The end result is a useful guide that is sure to illuminate Lewis’ immortal work, and help cast some light in those shadowy places of the novel.  In all, C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell is a well thought out examination of The Screwtape Letters. Here is hoping that this is only the first of many books celebrating this timeless story.

4 1/5 out of 5 shields.

Order the book from Amazon.com


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