A Severe Mercy Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Severe Mercy

Although this bestselling book owes some of its fame to the substantial part played by C.S. Lewis, it is an inspiring and moving account of an extraordinary love and the relationship that one couple built. A young man and woman meet in their college years just before WWII and decide to make their love a thing to last forever, to be considered before all other things and people, and placed above them. The level of communication that they consciously worked to attain quickly matched that of couples who have been happily married for decades. They called it 'The Shining Barrier': the very highest and best of pagan loves.
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'To be the watch upon the walls of the Shining Barrier, we early established...the Navigator's Council. It was in part a truth session but, more significantly, it was an inquiry into the 'state of the union'. Were we fully sharing? Was there any sign of creeping separateness?...Whatever, the decision, it would be made on the single basis of the 'Appeal to Love'...what will be the best for our love? Should one of us change a pattern of behaviour that bothered the other, or should the other learn to accept?'

They moved to Oxford to study after the war and met a wide circle of university people, including C.S. Lewis. Sheldon and Davy had to contend with the challenge of the faith of the people they met. They had to admit that if so many, from nuclear physicist to the humanities specialist, believed in Christianity, then maybe it made sense. This had far-reaching consequences for their relationship. Back in the USA they settle down. But Davy falls ill and dies of a mystery disease. In 1958 Sheldon Vanauken was corresponding by letter with Lewis, who himself had married a dying woman, a story told elsewhere. But Sheldon Vanauken is left to tell his own story, which he published much later in 1977. The title of the book is from a comment by Lewis, written in encouragement, taken from an expression in one of Charles Williams' novels. Well written and deeply thought out as well as felt, this is an utterly true and truthful story, the like of which is rarely seen.
The review of this Book prepared by Michael JR Jose

Chapter Analysis of A Severe Mercy

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Plot & Themes

Romance    -   Yes Kind of romance:    -   discovery about a lover    -   marriage coming apart Phys disability/mental struggle?    -   Yes Struggle with    -   physical disability/sickness    -   general search for meaning

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   teacher/professor Ethnicity    -   White Nationality    -   American


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   6 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK City?    -   Yes City:    -   New York Century:    -   1930's-1950's

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   spiritual    -   like laughing Pictures/Illustrations?    -   None How much dialogue in bio?    -   significantly more descript than dialog How much of bio focuses on most famous period of life?    -   26-50% of book

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Sheldon Vanauken Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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