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C. S. Lewis's dazzling allegory about Heaven and Hell—and the chasm fixed between them—is one of his most brilliantly imaginative tales, where we discover that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside.

In a dream, the narrator boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon in Hell and embarks on an incredible voyage to Heaven. Anyone in Hell is invited on board, and anyone may remain in Heaven if he or she so chooses. But do we really want to live in Heaven? This powerful, exquisitely written fantasy is one of C. S. Lewis's most enduring works of fiction and a profound meditation on good and evil and on what God really offers us.

Topics: Philosophical, British Author, The Afterlife, Hell, Heaven, Christian Afterlife, Allegory, Inklings, First Person Narration, Inspirational, Morality, Angels, Christianity, Journeys, Speculative Fiction, Contemplative, Novella, and Catholicism

Published: HarperCollins on Jun 2, 2009
ISBN: 9780061947353
List price: $10.39
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"No, there is no escape. There is no heaven eith a little bit of hell in it-- no plan to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or our pockets. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather." --George MacDonald [1824-1905]This slim volume may not be that starling today, when many believe in Universal salvation, but I imagine it provoke many theological discussions when first published in 1946.I especially enjoyed the end, when Lewis reference Julian of Norwich; 'hungry ghosts' and bodhisattvas of Buddhism; and free will. The vignettes prior to the theological exposition were fun and thought-provoking, though the faint feminist streak in me was disappointed that the men were, in the main, arguing from logic, which the women were petty and desperate in their desire to attach themselves in such a needy manner to others. But this was written in 1946.read more
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C.S. Lewis’ surreal description of the decision between Heaven and Hell. Beginning with a bus ride through the sky, it follows vignettes of people who’ve made the choice between living for or dying to one’s self.read more
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As noted here, Lewis' "The Great Divorce," caused me to think and ponder many different concepts. The fantastic thing about the contemplation process was that it occurred while reading a piece of fiction.Maybe the idea of feel of the book can best be described in Lewis' preface: If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in "the High Countries." In that sense it will be true for those who have complete the journey (and for no others) to say that good is everything and Heaven everywhere. But we, at this end of the road, must not try to anticipate that retrospective vision. If we do, we are likely to embrace the false and disastrous converse and fancy that everything is good and everywhere is Heaven.Emphasis in the quote is my own.Maybe this does not describe the feel of the book at all or make full sense unless you have fully read the book. I would love to expand on the ideas Lewis expresses through his work, but I simply can not, in my own words, share these in a way which would do the piece any justice.It is my highest recommendation that you read this book.read more
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An interesting book, even though there are many things I don’t agree with in it. It’s overly preachy, full of straw man arguments, and generally full of the idea that you should never question or stray from strict Christian dogma or you are a damned fool. Other than that it has some good, thought provoking ideas that you can take in ways the author may not have intended. It is very short, and that’s a good thing, I wouldn’t have wanted too much of it.read more
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One of my favorites for many years, this is the greatest allegory of Heaven and Hell ever written.read more
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Very interesting book. It is a quick read. The author is having a vision/dream about purgatory? hell and heaven. The way he describes the detail I can believe he really did have this dream. Fascinating. I'm sure I will have to read it again to fully understand it.read more
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In this fantasy tale, Lewis explores the nature of heaven and hell and the ramifications of salvation and redemption. In the introduction, he points out that this is an imaginative exploration of these locations, not to be taken as gospel or even as his own beliefs, but a simple fantasy that explores what could be.Hell is a drab place, where fights break out and people are drawn into deeper and deeper solitude. It is always gray, that fading light that just precedes night time, and the weather is damp and drizzly. The narrator, presumably Lewis himself, isn't at first aware of the true nature of his surroundings, and neither are we. Through vivid descriptions and cryptic dialogue we piece together an idea that this is hell that he is traversing (which is later confirmed by an angel). By chance he sees a queue, and for want of anything better to do he joins it, later discovering that it is a bus line, and he hops on board. The bus, however, is no ordinary means of public transport: it flies.The dull gray drops away, light percolates through shut window blinds, and the bus approaches cliffs that loom over the riders. The top of the top of these sheer rock walls reveals a lush green valley, and beautiful mountains in the distance. The light is the soft brilliance of early dawn, just before day breaks. Of course, this is heaven.While the physical settings of heaven and hell are, in themselves, fascinating, Lewis's inventive mind has more to offer. The denizens of hell become mere ghosts in the bright land, so insubstantial that even the smallest stalk of grass pierces them, water is solid, and an apple weighs a ton. The angels that descend upon the bus riders have come with a purpose, one angel to one ghost, in a last attempt to break through their worldly walls and win them to repentance and salvation. The exchanges between the angels and the ghosts, still stubbornly clinging to their flawed ideas that placed them in hell in the first place, become philosophical debates where Lewis has a chance to refute some common criticisms of Christianity.I've always liked Lewis, because he has a touch for explaining theological conundrums in simple terms, and because he has a rich imagination. This book combines both. Clearly, the fantasy is just a vehicle to delve into those philosophic exchanges, but since his intention is clear from the introduction I didn't feel like he was playing a trick. On the contrary, I thought it was a clever way to make subject matter that could otherwise be dry become very entertaining.read more
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I find myself constantly referring to this bookread more
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In a way, this is a Protestant version of The Divine Comedy. Lewis tells of a bus ride taken by occupents of hell from hell to heaven. Heaven is so real, that the visitors seem like ghosts. The occupants are dead set on returning to hell even though they see the beauty of Heaven. It might not be the most theologically sound story, but Lewis gives insite into the thought that "the gates of Hell are barred from the inside." This is one of my favorite books.read more
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A lively fable about choice and eternity.read more
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One of the best introductions into Lewis' work. A much more engaging and fun read than the more serious "Mere Christianity." Lewis is a master of dialogue and crafting complex characters who are memorable beyond their brief appearances.read more
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Lewis is so intruiging. Sometimes I'm not sure where his theology comes from, but his perspective is crutial for me. I love it.I need to reread this book.read more
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Few can stir the imagination as C. S. Lewis. Here he is at his best drawing for us images of heaven and hell to ponder upon. The point he makes is a sobering one: The people in hell really do not want to go to heaven. They somehow believe God is trying to rob them of something. They want to control there own lives. And God says: 'Thy will be done'.read more
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This classic Lewis book was fascinating, interesting, and moving.read more
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This book was recommended by my pastor. I can't believe it was as good at he said. It was better. I figured that if he liked it, it would be a boring yeah,yeah on the church line. It ain't. Read it.read more
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Lewis' story of a bus trip from hell to heaven is one of Lewis' most quotable books, and contains a number of fascinating insights into human nature. The book is perhaps best summed up in the quote, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it." It is one of those books you can easily read from cover to cover in one night.read more
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This book is a book of allegory where a man takes a bus trip and ends up at the gates heaven where he sees lots of interactions between what I would describe as saints, those who are damned and those who eventually can be saved. This book is a favorite to many people, but I honestly have liked other things that Lewis wrote much more. I probably need to read it again to give it a real chance, but I wasn’t really impressed. I guess it seemed to me like it was trying to be fantasy-fiction, but wasn’t quite there, so was just kind of preachy instead. George MacDonald, who was one of Lewis’ great inspirations, and whom he even references in this book did a much better job of navigating the fantasy-allegory path in his Lilith. As far as Lewis goes, I liked Till We Have Faces, The Narnia Books and even his autobiography Surprised by Joy much more.read more
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In the preface, Lewis suggests that this book is a sort of response to Blake's "Marriage of Heaven and Hell." Now, I haven't read that particular book, so I can't say how adequate this particular response is, but overall, I really enjoyed the themes, presentations and thoughts brought out in this book.The basic premise is that Lewis finds himself in a strange gray town where he boards a bus with a number of other passengers. After a somewhat strange trip, he finds himself in a beautiful, but strange location. He follows some of the other passengers as they explore the new land and are met by the inhabitants. TO "spoil" the premise a bit, the "gray town" represents HELL and the shining land at the end of the bus ride represents HEAVEN. The passengers are ghosts who have taken a trip from Hell to Heaven...and as they are greeted by the brilliant beings in Heaven, we learn that the inhabitants from Hell are given the option of staying in Heaven. Naturally there are some rules in order to stay (they must give up remaining vices, pride, animosity and embrace the everpresent and all important love of God).The book is broken into a series of vignettes as the narrator watches the behavior of the visitors from Hell and their interactions with Heaven and with the angels they find there.At first, the narrator wanders alone through Heaven but after a time he encounters an angel who engages him in conversation. The remaining chapters then reminded me a bit of the interaction between Dante and Virgil while Dante wandered through the various levels of Hell/Inferno and made observations on the inhabitants there.This book is another great example of Lewis's thoughtfulness and insight into religion, heaven, hell, God's love and other elements of Christianity. It's not as scholarly as "The Four Loves" and isn't as allegorical as his Narnia series. It's more akin to his work with Screwtape and shares many similarities. We are again shown examples of how the human mind gets caught up with pride, offense, lust, greed and other elements that hold us back from attaining our eternal potential. Where Screwtape is very tongue in cheek and has the humorous voice of a devil, Divorce is humorous at times but also has a certain sadness in its poignancy. In Screwtape we were distanced from the actual temptation and fall of humanity. Here we get to see individual humans who have fallen from Grace and (sadly) hold fast to their fallen state even while sitting on the borders of Heaven itself.I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of very thoughtful segments and passages. I found real examples in each of the character sketches he presented. There are a few points of religion on which I vary quite significantly from Lewis's proposal, but from a high level, I found this exploration very intriguing, well crafted and (although certainly a fiction) of the general feeling and spirit of the concepts of Heaven and Hell.I want to share one particular passage really stuck with me in pointing out the importance of our own agency and choice: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened."In God's plan for us, He truly wants us ALL to return to Heaven to partake of His presence, but He will not force us. The choice is always ours. But He cannot modify the laws that dictate who may and may not enter Heaven and His presence. If we choose the path that takes us away from Heaven, that is our choice. He will present us opportunities again and again to repent of our choices and choose His path. But in the end, it is a matter of choices and the consequences of those choices.I found this book very thoughtful, insightful and inspirational. It shows great insight into the human mind with relation to the eternal. It also does a great job of illustrating how our own failings may hold us back even if we don't acknowledge them.Well worth reading.read more
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If "The Screwtape Letters" demonstrates various ways that humans may be led toward sin and hell, then "The Great Divorce" is its complement, demonstrating what might happen to these benighted souls if given one more chance after death. A chance that the souls, currently living in the grey town, must choose to attempt by boarding a kind of celestial bus that takes the passengers as far as the outskirts of Heaven. Here, instead of being influenced by invisible and inaudible demons, they are approached by bright beings (souls already admitted to Heaven) and even angels intent upon them taking the last few steps to salvation.The tale is told from Lewis' POV as if he were dead and, finding himself in the grey town, decided to board the bus. His guide, as it turns out, is George MacDonald. I love every one of the encounters on the doorstep of Heaven That Lewis observes. Even though I've read this book many times, I find myself rooting for each of the spirits visiting from the grey town to make the right decision.read more
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Very interesting and thought provoking! Lewis' dream fantasy of what Heaven is/will be like and what keeps someone (and allows another) from entering it. Addresses what role sin plays in our lives and how God and Hell coexist.read more
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When Blake wrote of the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Lewis thought it would eventually end in a Great Divorce. In this book, Lewis shows Heaven and Hell, but in a way, they are subjective. If you choose the Earth over Heaven, you find the Earth is a suburb of Hell. If you choose Heaven over Earth, you instead find that Earth is a neighborhood on the outskirts of Heaven. Kinda. Likewise, those in Hell can visit Heaven whenever they like, and can stay in Heaven, only they have to give up all of their Earthly ways, and realize what's really important.While not a Biblical view of the afterlife, I found that Lewis' depiction of this afterlife to be quite imaginative and interesting: Hell is a place that you make your own, but what you make is not real, while Heaven, to a denizen of Hell is so real that you cannot even move the blades of grass or make ripples in water. I'm not sure how I feel about it from a theological point of view, but as a story that raises intrigue and thinking, especially of metaphysical things, it certainly does that fairly well.I would recommend this book alongside others by Lewis, specifically those theological fictions of his, such as Screwtape Letters (though, not necessarily, alongside Narnia). It may be too radical for some Christians, and too preachy for some non-Christians, but for everyone else, it's definitely thought-provoking.read more
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A fable about what it means to get to heaven. Done very well with the imagery of a "solid" heaven. Lewis did a good job of describing Hell not as a demon-filled inferno; rather as a dreary town where no one gets along and no one is happy. Kind of reminded me of the novel "Hell". Especially meaningful were the scenes where the phantoms would not shed their earthly vanities for the chance of heaven. I also liked Lewis' interaction with George MacDonald - his self-proclaimed inspiration. Jack never disappoints.read more
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I've read this book many times and given many copies of this book away as well. In my opinion, this book is wonderful. It truly shows just why some people would prefer hell over being with the Lord---it does a great job of illuminating all the sinful traps that we can get caught in and end up turning away from accepting the Lord's greatest gift to us. Eye-opening and insightful. I think it is as good as the Screwtape Letters, if not better!read more
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The essense of the human condition captured in a great story. The most re-read book in my library.read more
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This is my favorite fiction book of all time, hands down. Lewis' talent for articulating spiritual truths in fiction is amazing, as evidenced in his other works, like Narnia. However, The Great Divorce is on a whole different level. I think Lewis has forever altered my perception of the union of Heaven and Hell.read more
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Why should there be a heaven and a hell? This book attempts to answer these questions from a fictional, nonreligious point of view. It does a helluva a job of it, too. The dialogue is invaluable.read more
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In this novella, C.S. Lewis investigates the eternal choice between Heaven and Hell, joy and despair. He structures the story as a dream: the soul of a man takes a journey, stopping at a place where there is a lot of empty space, where houses can be literally dreamed out of the ground and as people get into arguments they move farther and farther away from each other. Souls can choose to stay in this increasing wasteland or travel away from it. As the journey continues, the soul is met by George MacDonald, who becomes his teacher and explains more of what is going on.I generally love C.S. Lewis. He has an interesting mind, and an interesting way of explaining things. I have loved the Chronicles of Narnia since I was a kid; I loved his more grown-up story Till We Have Faces when I read it for the first time two years ago. Just about any time I have a chance to buy one of his books, I do, so when I came across this in the bargain books several years ago, I snatched it. The Great Divorce, though short and easy to read, was a heady trip. I liked, but did not love it; I'm not sure I understood half of it. I had a similar reaction to this story in its entirety that I did to the end of Perelandra - the points he were making became so philosophical and over my head that I lost track of the argument and what I even thought about it. Still, it passed an afternoon pleasantly.read more
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Lewis imagines life after death - brilliant, lucid and engaging.read more
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I read this book again every few years. Even the Preface is a treasure, reorienting my thinking about God and Heaven.Is Hell a real place or a state of mind? Is Heaven a real place? Will we like what we find in Heaven? What if there is no further intellectual pursuit because we finally meet the real and complete Truth? What is we have no further service to provide and in fact we are not needed there at all? Is Mother-love truly the most honorable of all emotions? Is it wrong to evoke pity in others?This is a great book with some very challenging images. When I get into a grumbling mood, I have to stop to see if I am becoming one big grumble. Reading this book always makes me pause and rethink what I mean when I love someone. How much of that is a craving to be loved? I have to admit many of my relationships (or lack of relationships) are colored by my fear and concern that I be loved rather than an honest love of the other person. And what would I hesitate to give up for joy? How can I hold those things, needs, and fears loosely, ready to let them be torn away, killed, and replaced by something so much better?Highly recommendedread more
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Here are some quotes I took away from this read: "Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage""Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains." "There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him." This is a thought-provoking read, easily done in the span of an afternoon. As stated in the preface, it is to be read as a fantasy, but it of course has an intentional moral. One of the biggest things I took from this novel is the natural error we often make of confusing means and ends. We do this with many activities/hobbies: we collect albums, but forget to listen to them; we do homework quickly and negate learning; we study the Bible and forget to love the Word as the living breath of God. I do this quite often. My heart is prone to switch from delighting in God to delighting in the methods that I use bring me this pleasuring in Him. This is idolatry. It is a sinful snare that takes people away from what makes them truly happy. True happiness is only ever achieved when God is the end.read more
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"No, there is no escape. There is no heaven eith a little bit of hell in it-- no plan to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or our pockets. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather." --George MacDonald [1824-1905]This slim volume may not be that starling today, when many believe in Universal salvation, but I imagine it provoke many theological discussions when first published in 1946.I especially enjoyed the end, when Lewis reference Julian of Norwich; 'hungry ghosts' and bodhisattvas of Buddhism; and free will. The vignettes prior to the theological exposition were fun and thought-provoking, though the faint feminist streak in me was disappointed that the men were, in the main, arguing from logic, which the women were petty and desperate in their desire to attach themselves in such a needy manner to others. But this was written in 1946.
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C.S. Lewis’ surreal description of the decision between Heaven and Hell. Beginning with a bus ride through the sky, it follows vignettes of people who’ve made the choice between living for or dying to one’s self.
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As noted here, Lewis' "The Great Divorce," caused me to think and ponder many different concepts. The fantastic thing about the contemplation process was that it occurred while reading a piece of fiction.Maybe the idea of feel of the book can best be described in Lewis' preface: If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in "the High Countries." In that sense it will be true for those who have complete the journey (and for no others) to say that good is everything and Heaven everywhere. But we, at this end of the road, must not try to anticipate that retrospective vision. If we do, we are likely to embrace the false and disastrous converse and fancy that everything is good and everywhere is Heaven.Emphasis in the quote is my own.Maybe this does not describe the feel of the book at all or make full sense unless you have fully read the book. I would love to expand on the ideas Lewis expresses through his work, but I simply can not, in my own words, share these in a way which would do the piece any justice.It is my highest recommendation that you read this book.
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An interesting book, even though there are many things I don’t agree with in it. It’s overly preachy, full of straw man arguments, and generally full of the idea that you should never question or stray from strict Christian dogma or you are a damned fool. Other than that it has some good, thought provoking ideas that you can take in ways the author may not have intended. It is very short, and that’s a good thing, I wouldn’t have wanted too much of it.
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One of my favorites for many years, this is the greatest allegory of Heaven and Hell ever written.
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Very interesting book. It is a quick read. The author is having a vision/dream about purgatory? hell and heaven. The way he describes the detail I can believe he really did have this dream. Fascinating. I'm sure I will have to read it again to fully understand it.
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In this fantasy tale, Lewis explores the nature of heaven and hell and the ramifications of salvation and redemption. In the introduction, he points out that this is an imaginative exploration of these locations, not to be taken as gospel or even as his own beliefs, but a simple fantasy that explores what could be.Hell is a drab place, where fights break out and people are drawn into deeper and deeper solitude. It is always gray, that fading light that just precedes night time, and the weather is damp and drizzly. The narrator, presumably Lewis himself, isn't at first aware of the true nature of his surroundings, and neither are we. Through vivid descriptions and cryptic dialogue we piece together an idea that this is hell that he is traversing (which is later confirmed by an angel). By chance he sees a queue, and for want of anything better to do he joins it, later discovering that it is a bus line, and he hops on board. The bus, however, is no ordinary means of public transport: it flies.The dull gray drops away, light percolates through shut window blinds, and the bus approaches cliffs that loom over the riders. The top of the top of these sheer rock walls reveals a lush green valley, and beautiful mountains in the distance. The light is the soft brilliance of early dawn, just before day breaks. Of course, this is heaven.While the physical settings of heaven and hell are, in themselves, fascinating, Lewis's inventive mind has more to offer. The denizens of hell become mere ghosts in the bright land, so insubstantial that even the smallest stalk of grass pierces them, water is solid, and an apple weighs a ton. The angels that descend upon the bus riders have come with a purpose, one angel to one ghost, in a last attempt to break through their worldly walls and win them to repentance and salvation. The exchanges between the angels and the ghosts, still stubbornly clinging to their flawed ideas that placed them in hell in the first place, become philosophical debates where Lewis has a chance to refute some common criticisms of Christianity.I've always liked Lewis, because he has a touch for explaining theological conundrums in simple terms, and because he has a rich imagination. This book combines both. Clearly, the fantasy is just a vehicle to delve into those philosophic exchanges, but since his intention is clear from the introduction I didn't feel like he was playing a trick. On the contrary, I thought it was a clever way to make subject matter that could otherwise be dry become very entertaining.
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I find myself constantly referring to this book
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In a way, this is a Protestant version of The Divine Comedy. Lewis tells of a bus ride taken by occupents of hell from hell to heaven. Heaven is so real, that the visitors seem like ghosts. The occupants are dead set on returning to hell even though they see the beauty of Heaven. It might not be the most theologically sound story, but Lewis gives insite into the thought that "the gates of Hell are barred from the inside." This is one of my favorite books.
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A lively fable about choice and eternity.
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One of the best introductions into Lewis' work. A much more engaging and fun read than the more serious "Mere Christianity." Lewis is a master of dialogue and crafting complex characters who are memorable beyond their brief appearances.
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Lewis is so intruiging. Sometimes I'm not sure where his theology comes from, but his perspective is crutial for me. I love it.I need to reread this book.
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Few can stir the imagination as C. S. Lewis. Here he is at his best drawing for us images of heaven and hell to ponder upon. The point he makes is a sobering one: The people in hell really do not want to go to heaven. They somehow believe God is trying to rob them of something. They want to control there own lives. And God says: 'Thy will be done'.
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This classic Lewis book was fascinating, interesting, and moving.
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This book was recommended by my pastor. I can't believe it was as good at he said. It was better. I figured that if he liked it, it would be a boring yeah,yeah on the church line. It ain't. Read it.
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Lewis' story of a bus trip from hell to heaven is one of Lewis' most quotable books, and contains a number of fascinating insights into human nature. The book is perhaps best summed up in the quote, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it." It is one of those books you can easily read from cover to cover in one night.
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This book is a book of allegory where a man takes a bus trip and ends up at the gates heaven where he sees lots of interactions between what I would describe as saints, those who are damned and those who eventually can be saved. This book is a favorite to many people, but I honestly have liked other things that Lewis wrote much more. I probably need to read it again to give it a real chance, but I wasn’t really impressed. I guess it seemed to me like it was trying to be fantasy-fiction, but wasn’t quite there, so was just kind of preachy instead. George MacDonald, who was one of Lewis’ great inspirations, and whom he even references in this book did a much better job of navigating the fantasy-allegory path in his Lilith. As far as Lewis goes, I liked Till We Have Faces, The Narnia Books and even his autobiography Surprised by Joy much more.
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In the preface, Lewis suggests that this book is a sort of response to Blake's "Marriage of Heaven and Hell." Now, I haven't read that particular book, so I can't say how adequate this particular response is, but overall, I really enjoyed the themes, presentations and thoughts brought out in this book.The basic premise is that Lewis finds himself in a strange gray town where he boards a bus with a number of other passengers. After a somewhat strange trip, he finds himself in a beautiful, but strange location. He follows some of the other passengers as they explore the new land and are met by the inhabitants. TO "spoil" the premise a bit, the "gray town" represents HELL and the shining land at the end of the bus ride represents HEAVEN. The passengers are ghosts who have taken a trip from Hell to Heaven...and as they are greeted by the brilliant beings in Heaven, we learn that the inhabitants from Hell are given the option of staying in Heaven. Naturally there are some rules in order to stay (they must give up remaining vices, pride, animosity and embrace the everpresent and all important love of God).The book is broken into a series of vignettes as the narrator watches the behavior of the visitors from Hell and their interactions with Heaven and with the angels they find there.At first, the narrator wanders alone through Heaven but after a time he encounters an angel who engages him in conversation. The remaining chapters then reminded me a bit of the interaction between Dante and Virgil while Dante wandered through the various levels of Hell/Inferno and made observations on the inhabitants there.This book is another great example of Lewis's thoughtfulness and insight into religion, heaven, hell, God's love and other elements of Christianity. It's not as scholarly as "The Four Loves" and isn't as allegorical as his Narnia series. It's more akin to his work with Screwtape and shares many similarities. We are again shown examples of how the human mind gets caught up with pride, offense, lust, greed and other elements that hold us back from attaining our eternal potential. Where Screwtape is very tongue in cheek and has the humorous voice of a devil, Divorce is humorous at times but also has a certain sadness in its poignancy. In Screwtape we were distanced from the actual temptation and fall of humanity. Here we get to see individual humans who have fallen from Grace and (sadly) hold fast to their fallen state even while sitting on the borders of Heaven itself.I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of very thoughtful segments and passages. I found real examples in each of the character sketches he presented. There are a few points of religion on which I vary quite significantly from Lewis's proposal, but from a high level, I found this exploration very intriguing, well crafted and (although certainly a fiction) of the general feeling and spirit of the concepts of Heaven and Hell.I want to share one particular passage really stuck with me in pointing out the importance of our own agency and choice: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened."In God's plan for us, He truly wants us ALL to return to Heaven to partake of His presence, but He will not force us. The choice is always ours. But He cannot modify the laws that dictate who may and may not enter Heaven and His presence. If we choose the path that takes us away from Heaven, that is our choice. He will present us opportunities again and again to repent of our choices and choose His path. But in the end, it is a matter of choices and the consequences of those choices.I found this book very thoughtful, insightful and inspirational. It shows great insight into the human mind with relation to the eternal. It also does a great job of illustrating how our own failings may hold us back even if we don't acknowledge them.Well worth reading.
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If "The Screwtape Letters" demonstrates various ways that humans may be led toward sin and hell, then "The Great Divorce" is its complement, demonstrating what might happen to these benighted souls if given one more chance after death. A chance that the souls, currently living in the grey town, must choose to attempt by boarding a kind of celestial bus that takes the passengers as far as the outskirts of Heaven. Here, instead of being influenced by invisible and inaudible demons, they are approached by bright beings (souls already admitted to Heaven) and even angels intent upon them taking the last few steps to salvation.The tale is told from Lewis' POV as if he were dead and, finding himself in the grey town, decided to board the bus. His guide, as it turns out, is George MacDonald. I love every one of the encounters on the doorstep of Heaven That Lewis observes. Even though I've read this book many times, I find myself rooting for each of the spirits visiting from the grey town to make the right decision.
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Very interesting and thought provoking! Lewis' dream fantasy of what Heaven is/will be like and what keeps someone (and allows another) from entering it. Addresses what role sin plays in our lives and how God and Hell coexist.
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When Blake wrote of the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Lewis thought it would eventually end in a Great Divorce. In this book, Lewis shows Heaven and Hell, but in a way, they are subjective. If you choose the Earth over Heaven, you find the Earth is a suburb of Hell. If you choose Heaven over Earth, you instead find that Earth is a neighborhood on the outskirts of Heaven. Kinda. Likewise, those in Hell can visit Heaven whenever they like, and can stay in Heaven, only they have to give up all of their Earthly ways, and realize what's really important.While not a Biblical view of the afterlife, I found that Lewis' depiction of this afterlife to be quite imaginative and interesting: Hell is a place that you make your own, but what you make is not real, while Heaven, to a denizen of Hell is so real that you cannot even move the blades of grass or make ripples in water. I'm not sure how I feel about it from a theological point of view, but as a story that raises intrigue and thinking, especially of metaphysical things, it certainly does that fairly well.I would recommend this book alongside others by Lewis, specifically those theological fictions of his, such as Screwtape Letters (though, not necessarily, alongside Narnia). It may be too radical for some Christians, and too preachy for some non-Christians, but for everyone else, it's definitely thought-provoking.
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A fable about what it means to get to heaven. Done very well with the imagery of a "solid" heaven. Lewis did a good job of describing Hell not as a demon-filled inferno; rather as a dreary town where no one gets along and no one is happy. Kind of reminded me of the novel "Hell". Especially meaningful were the scenes where the phantoms would not shed their earthly vanities for the chance of heaven. I also liked Lewis' interaction with George MacDonald - his self-proclaimed inspiration. Jack never disappoints.
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I've read this book many times and given many copies of this book away as well. In my opinion, this book is wonderful. It truly shows just why some people would prefer hell over being with the Lord---it does a great job of illuminating all the sinful traps that we can get caught in and end up turning away from accepting the Lord's greatest gift to us. Eye-opening and insightful. I think it is as good as the Screwtape Letters, if not better!
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The essense of the human condition captured in a great story. The most re-read book in my library.
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This is my favorite fiction book of all time, hands down. Lewis' talent for articulating spiritual truths in fiction is amazing, as evidenced in his other works, like Narnia. However, The Great Divorce is on a whole different level. I think Lewis has forever altered my perception of the union of Heaven and Hell.
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Why should there be a heaven and a hell? This book attempts to answer these questions from a fictional, nonreligious point of view. It does a helluva a job of it, too. The dialogue is invaluable.
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In this novella, C.S. Lewis investigates the eternal choice between Heaven and Hell, joy and despair. He structures the story as a dream: the soul of a man takes a journey, stopping at a place where there is a lot of empty space, where houses can be literally dreamed out of the ground and as people get into arguments they move farther and farther away from each other. Souls can choose to stay in this increasing wasteland or travel away from it. As the journey continues, the soul is met by George MacDonald, who becomes his teacher and explains more of what is going on.I generally love C.S. Lewis. He has an interesting mind, and an interesting way of explaining things. I have loved the Chronicles of Narnia since I was a kid; I loved his more grown-up story Till We Have Faces when I read it for the first time two years ago. Just about any time I have a chance to buy one of his books, I do, so when I came across this in the bargain books several years ago, I snatched it. The Great Divorce, though short and easy to read, was a heady trip. I liked, but did not love it; I'm not sure I understood half of it. I had a similar reaction to this story in its entirety that I did to the end of Perelandra - the points he were making became so philosophical and over my head that I lost track of the argument and what I even thought about it. Still, it passed an afternoon pleasantly.
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Lewis imagines life after death - brilliant, lucid and engaging.
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I read this book again every few years. Even the Preface is a treasure, reorienting my thinking about God and Heaven.Is Hell a real place or a state of mind? Is Heaven a real place? Will we like what we find in Heaven? What if there is no further intellectual pursuit because we finally meet the real and complete Truth? What is we have no further service to provide and in fact we are not needed there at all? Is Mother-love truly the most honorable of all emotions? Is it wrong to evoke pity in others?This is a great book with some very challenging images. When I get into a grumbling mood, I have to stop to see if I am becoming one big grumble. Reading this book always makes me pause and rethink what I mean when I love someone. How much of that is a craving to be loved? I have to admit many of my relationships (or lack of relationships) are colored by my fear and concern that I be loved rather than an honest love of the other person. And what would I hesitate to give up for joy? How can I hold those things, needs, and fears loosely, ready to let them be torn away, killed, and replaced by something so much better?Highly recommended
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Here are some quotes I took away from this read: "Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage""Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains." "There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him." This is a thought-provoking read, easily done in the span of an afternoon. As stated in the preface, it is to be read as a fantasy, but it of course has an intentional moral. One of the biggest things I took from this novel is the natural error we often make of confusing means and ends. We do this with many activities/hobbies: we collect albums, but forget to listen to them; we do homework quickly and negate learning; we study the Bible and forget to love the Word as the living breath of God. I do this quite often. My heart is prone to switch from delighting in God to delighting in the methods that I use bring me this pleasuring in Him. This is idolatry. It is a sinful snare that takes people away from what makes them truly happy. True happiness is only ever achieved when God is the end.
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