Book review: The Screwtape Letters

I think this one sat on my shelf for five years before I finally opened it. I had bought it second hand when I first discovered Voltaire and Rosseau (an amazing second-hand book shop in Glasgow), and I had bought several other books at the same time. So maybe I just read all of the others first and forgot about it. Or maybe it’s because this copy was published the same year I was born and so it’s old, but not old enough to be interesting (to me). Still, I did want to read it and eventually it happened.


The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis


I’ve never been a fan of C.S. Lewis. Not for any particular reason, I guess I just wasn’t interested in the Narnia books. There was nothing wrong with them, but they just didn’t do it for me. However, I recognise that many consider Lewis a master so I was interested to read something he’d written that had nothing to do with Narnia. The Screwtape Letters fits the bill perfectly.

It’s a series of letters from a fairly major demon to his nephew, advising him on how to corrupt a mortal and prepare them for Hell. This particular version of Hell being a very 1940s Church of England version. I imagine not a lot changes in versions between the decades but perhaps it does between different interpretations of Christianity. I’m the wrong person to ask.

The letters reveal a good deal about Lewis’s ideas about theology and he covers sex, love, pride, gluttony and war, among a few other things. The latter half of the letters take place during the Second World War and here the importance of cowardice and courage are discussed in detail. The book is very much a guide from Lewis, to Christians, on what not to do if they would like to go to Heaven.

It’s engaging and thought provoking and I can see it making good material for a radio drama or a short series of podcasts. However, I think my background in the teachings of the Church of England is a bit too slim for me to have picked up on a lot of the messages there. No doubt they would be even more interesting to someone who had spent a little time with the church.


Outlandish Lit’s Weirdathon is still ongoing and I see no reason to make this my second weirdathon book. You can find out about this here.

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