Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
I read this book while touring Spain on the bus and in between taking shots of gorgeous olive tree hillsides. We did have a few days where we were riding the bus for 3-4 hour stretches to get to the south of Spain and back to Madrid, and that’s when a good chunk of my reading happened for this book. It’s a little more memorable than Out of the Silent Planet, because of Lewis’s cultural context. Let’s dig in.
C.S. Lewis the character goes to Dr. Ransom’s house and finds a coffin. He is instructed to help Ransom get in it, as this will be his mode of transportation to a new planet, Perelandra. Then he must go about his life and wait for a signal to come back and greet the coffin with Ransom in it. This he does, but the coffin is smashed up, and Ransom is bleeding on his heel. What ensues is the frame narrative of Ransom sharing his story with Lewis and Lewis sharing that story with us. Ransom encounters a woman on a series of floating islands, and her very innocence and love for the King makes her an Eve-like figure. Yet Dr. Weston is back and determined to ruin the Edenic experience through the woman. And thus we have an allegory for the fall of Man and the experience of salvation.
What stands out about this book for me was Lewis’s lack of experience with women as characters or nuanced individuals. I know the era in which he lived was terrible about women, and he himself inhabited a highly masculine world. That said, there is some cozy old-fashioned sexism that had me gnashing my teeth in frustration. As you do. This book is odd, but there’s a bit more cohesive plot, and the sexism will fill you with enough rage to continue reading. Fun!