Narrated By: Bernadette Dunne
Duration: 14 hours and 10 minutes
What to expect
The first full biography of Joy Davidman brings her out from C. S. Lewis’ shadow, where she has long been hidden, to reveal a powerful writer and thinker.
Joy Davidman is known, if she is known at all, as the wife of C. S. Lewis. Their marriage was immortalized in the film Shadowlands and Lewis’ memoir A Grief Observed. Now, through extraordinary new documents as well as years of research and interviews, Abigail Santamaria brings Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis to the page in the fullness and depth she deserves.
A poet and radical, Davidman was a frequent contributor to the communist vehicle New Masses and an active member of New York literary circles in the 1930s and ’40s. Born Jewish in the Bronx, she was an atheist, then a practitioner of Dianetics; she converted to Christianity after experiencing a moment of transcendent grace. A mother, a novelist, a vibrant and difficult and intelligent woman, she set off for England in 1952, determined to captivate the man whose work had changed her life.
Davidman became the intellectual and spiritual partner Lewis never expected but cherished. She helped him refine his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, and to write his novel Till We Have Faces. Their relationship—begun when Joy wrote to Lewis as a religious guide—grew from a dialogue about faith, writing, and poetry into a deep friendship and a timeless love story.
Biography: writers, Biography: general, Gender studies: women and girls, Poetry
Listen to a sample
“A luscious Narnia tale for grownups, a literary biography that takes the shape of a quest narrative as the brilliant idealistic Joy Davidman Gresham, writer and free spirit, adopts one cause after another until finally setting her cap for her spiritual mentor, C. S. ‘Jack’ Lewis.”
“Abigail Santamaria does not disappoint. Her highly readable book should be the definitive biography of Joy Davidman for a long time to come.”
“Joy is compelling…Davidman achieves a greatness of her own, in the nick of time, just ahead of death, in a way available to us all: by making a happy union.”
“Those who want to know the real Davidman will discover a woman in search of purpose and meaning who finally finds it in the faith and person of Lewis.”
“Abigail Santamaria’s Joy would be noteworthy enough for being the first in-depth examination of the complete and remarkable life of Joy Davidman, today remembered only for her last few years as the wife of English theologian C. S. Lewis. But this elegantly written and persuasively analyzed story builds to something much more. Born a Jew but jolted into full Christianity by a soul-shattering vision, Davidman’s life, as told by Santamaria, using fascinating new material and interviews, becomes a unique and intricate spiritual quest that takes us from the Bronx to the glory days of the American Communist Party, literary success, motherhood, divorce, and ultimate rebirth. Davidman was manipulative, endearing, brilliant, and obsessive—and Lewis, one of the most influential and beloved spiritual writers of the twentieth century, fell in love with all of it. A complicated woman for our time, Davidman’s search for meaning and her final arrival at love will resonate deeply long after the reader has closed Santamaria’s masterful biography.”
“[An] impressive debut biography…Santamaria has fashioned a compelling narrative, remaining clear-eyed about her subject’s many personal failings.”
“Abigail Santamaria’s biography of Joy Davidman is a tour de force of research and writing. Plumbing the depths of unpublished documents, Santamaria reveals the vision and writing of a young woman whose coming of age in the turbulent ’30s is both distinctive and emblematic of her time. With exquisite sensitivity tinctured by realism, Santamaria explores the love shared by Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis, smashing old myths with fresh insights that illuminate their desire for love and the universal longing for spiritual transcendence.”
“This comprehensive and exhaustively researched work provides new and fascinating insights into the life of Joy Davidman and her relationship and subsequent marriage to C. S. Lewis. Most listeners will know of her because of her marriage to Lewis and through his writings. This work brings extensive coverage of her own writing and correspondence, and it is an unexpected delight to discover her wit and her endless quest to know [and] learn more. The author quotes extensively from Davidman’s writings.”