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Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015
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“A lush Narnia tale for grownups”: The first comprehensive biography of the rebel thinker who married C. S. Lewis (Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize winner).
 
If Joy Davidman is known at all, it’s as the wife of C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia. On her own, she was a poet and radical, a contributor to the communist journal New Masses, and an active member of New York literary circles of the 1930s and ’40s. Growing up in a family of Jewish immigrants in the Bronx, she became an atheist, then a practitioner of Dianetics, and finally a Christian convert after experiencing a moment of transcendent grace. She was also a mother, a novelist, a screenwriter, and an intelligent, difficult, and determined woman. In 1952 she set off for England to pursue C. S. Lewis, the man she considered her spiritual guide and her intellectual mentor.
Out of a deep friendship grounded in faith, poetry, and a passion for writing grew a timeless love story, and an unforgettable marriage of equals—one that would be immortalized in the film Shadowlands and Lewis’s memoir, A Grief Observed.
“Plumbing the depths of unpublished documents, Santamaria reveals the vision and writing of a young woman whose coming of age in the turbulent thirties is both distinctive and emblematic of her time” (Susan Hertog, author of Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Life). Finally, Joy Davidman is brought out of her husband’s shadow to secure a place in literary history that is both a long-time coming and well-deserved.
 
“This book gives Davidman her life back. . . . Ms. Santamaria succeeds in de-mythologizing Davidman’s story.” —The Wall Street Journal
 
“Compelling . . . clear, unsentimental.” — The New York Times Book Review 
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
08/04/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780547843704
ASIN:
B00LZ7GNZS
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APA Citation (style guide)

Abigail Santamaria. (2015). Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Abigail Santamaria. 2015. Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Abigail Santamaria, Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Abigail Santamaria. Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Abigail Santamaria earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University and has been awarded fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation, Jentel Arts, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She lives in New York City with her family. Joy is her first book.
      • name: Abigail Santamaria
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fullDescription
“A lush Narnia tale for grownups”: The first comprehensive biography of the rebel thinker who married C. S. Lewis (Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize winner).
 
If Joy Davidman is known at all, it’s as the wife of C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia. On her own, she was a poet and radical, a contributor to the communist journal New Masses, and an active member of New York literary circles of the 1930s and ’40s. Growing up in a family of Jewish immigrants in the Bronx, she became an atheist, then a practitioner of Dianetics, and finally a Christian convert after experiencing a moment of transcendent grace. She was also a mother, a novelist, a screenwriter, and an intelligent, difficult, and determined woman. In 1952 she set off for England to pursue C. S. Lewis, the man she considered her spiritual guide and her intellectual mentor.
Out of a deep friendship grounded in faith, poetry, and a passion for writing grew a timeless love story, and an unforgettable marriage of equals—one that would be immortalized in the film Shadowlands and Lewis’s memoir, A Grief Observed.
“Plumbing the depths of unpublished documents, Santamaria reveals the vision and writing of a young woman whose coming of age in the turbulent thirties is both distinctive and emblematic of her time” (Susan Hertog, author of Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Life). Finally, Joy Davidman is brought out of her husband’s shadow to secure a place in literary history that is both a long-time coming and well-deserved.
 
“This book gives Davidman her life back. . . . Ms. Santamaria succeeds in de-mythologizing Davidman’s story.” —The Wall Street Journal
 
“Compelling . . . clear, unsentimental.” — The New York Times Book Review 
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content:

        Christianity Today Book Awards 2016, Award of Merit in History/Biography

        Shortlisted for the Christian Book Awards

        "[An] impressive debut biography...Santamaria has fashioned a compelling narrative, remaining cleareyed about her subject's many personal failings."

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        May 11, 2015
        If not for Joy Davidman’s marriage to C.S. Lewis, it’s unlikely that anyone would be reading a book about her. Nevertheless, debut author Santamaria does her best to fill in Davidman’s scattered life, starting with her days as a student at Hunter College in the early 1930s; her infatuation with the Communist Party and poems supporting the cause; her first marriage, to author William Lindsey Gresham, in 1942; and the birth of their two sons. The marriage was rocky, with Davidman dissatisfied with life as a conventional housewife and Gresham struggling with alcoholism. The couple dallied with Dianetics before Joy, already interested in C.S. Lewis’s writing, became smitten with him after the two began corresponding. As her marriage dissolved, she left for England hoping to start a relationship with Lewis. Joy succeeded, divorcing Gresham in 1954 and marrying Lewis in 1956. Though Santamaria describes their relationship as “blissfully happy,” some details indicate that Lewis may have been more ambivalent (he buried their wedding announcement in the Christmas Eve edition of the Times, where few would notice it). Readers enchanted with the version of Davidman and Lewis’s romance presented in the film Shadowlands may be disappointed that the facts don’t fully support what Santamaria calls “one of the 20th century’s greatest love stories.” B&w insert. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        May 15, 2015
        A woman's quest for faith and love. In this impressive debut biography, Santamaria traces the life of Helen Joy Davidman (1915-1960), a woman who likely would be a historical footnote if not for her marriage to the noted writer C.S. Lewis. In the 1993 film Shadowlands, director Richard Attenborough portrayed their love affair. Poet, essayist, critic, and novelist, Davidman was a rebellious, abrasive, precociously intelligent woman with no social skills: "She'd look at you intensely and ask inappropriately intimate questions out of the blue," one acquaintance recalled. It's no wonder that she felt herself an outsider, even as a child. Her parents, secular Jewish immigrants, prized education and pushed her to excel. She became a teacher but hated it. In 1938, searching for a community with like-minded political views-and also hoping to meet men-Davidman joined the Communist Party. While she participated in meetings and social events, she devoted herself to her true vocation: writing. She won a Yale Younger Poets Award, contributed to the Marxist journal New Masses as well as other venues, and even went to Hollywood to write screenplays. By 1946, she and her husband, William Gresham, became deeply disillusioned with Marxism and gave up their Communist Party membership. Joy shifted her focus to religion, first thinking she would "become a good Jew," then enthusiastically embracing L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics. But suddenly she discovered C.S. Lewis, whose writings on Christianity she found compelling. She wrote to him and soon fell obsessively in love, traveling to England with the aim of marrying him. Her marriage to Gresham, roiled by his alcoholism and infidelities, ended in divorce. Although Lewis first bristled, he warmed to her attentions and was devastated when, months after their marriage, Joy was diagnosed with bone cancer. With access to unpublished documents and family papers, Santamaria has fashioned a compelling narrative, remaining cleareyed about her subject's many personal failings.

        COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        August 1, 2015
        C. S. Lewis' biographers view Joy Davidman (191560) as having deliberately captured as well as captivated him. Although Santamaria is never hostile, her candid presentation doesn't dispel the desperate-schemer image. Indeed, Davidman seems to have been chronically desperate. Possessed of a virtually eidetic memory for writing, she was a contrary young woman who countered her parents' middle-class attitudes by embracing communism. She won a Yale Younger Poets award, parlayed that into six months in Hollywood, and married a fellow leftie writer. With him she had two sons, traded Marxism for Christianity and then Dianetics, and drank and spent too much. She ran away to England to meet the sf novelist and Christian apologist she adored for his writing. Lewis initially resisted, but she prevailed and, after diagnosis with irreversible cancer, married him and inspired his last novel and the classic reflection, A Grief Observed (1961). Santamaria makes no case for Davidman's scant literary accomplishments but uses her letters and unpublished, journal-like sonnets to try to sympathize with the pathetic, crass woman who somehow blessed Lewis' life.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        June 1, 2015

        Santamaria's debut is sure to get attention from C.S. Lewis scholars and fans. Written for a general audience, this is the first full biography of Joy Davidman (1915-60), wife of C.S. Lewis (1898-1963). During her research, Santamaria accessed never-before-seen material held by the family. Starting with Joy's childhood in a middle-class Bronx neighborhood, the narrative traces her lonely school years, the development of her writing career, and her romance with the Communist Party. We learn of her marriage to writer William Lindsay Gresham, the birth of their children, their financial problems, interest in Dianetics, and conversion to Christianity, and the slow dissolution of their union. Readers discover that Joy's correspondence and eventual marriage to Lewis began as a deliberate seduction. Her flaws and mistakes are presented sympathetically but without excuses. VERDICT Fans of Lewis and the movie Shadowlands, a dramatized version of his life with Joy, may be disappointed by the lack of romance and shocked by how calculating she was. However, 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. [See Prepub Alert, 2/9/15.]--Stefanie Hollmichel, Univ. of St. Thomas Law Lib., Minneapolis

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 1, 2015

        A poet busy in New York literary circles in the 1930s-1940s, a frequent contributor to the Communist publication New Masses, born Jewish in the Bronx but an atheist who turned to Dianetics, Joy Davidson does not seem the type to become the wife and spiritual partner of renowned Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. But after converting to Christianity and sailing to England in 1952 to meet the man whose works had so influenced her, Davidson became an integral part of his life. Love, marriage, and deep intellectual friendship; Santamaria's first book, six years in the making, and the first big biography of Davidson.

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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“A lush Narnia tale for grownups”: The first comprehensive biography of the rebel thinker who married C. S. Lewis (Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize winner).
 
If Joy Davidman is known at all, it’s as the wife of C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia. On her own, she was a poet and radical, a contributor to the communist journal New Masses, and an active member of New York literary circles of the 1930s and ’40s. Growing up in a family of Jewish immigrants in the Bronx, she became an atheist, then a practitioner of Dianetics, and finally a Christian convert after experiencing a moment of transcendent grace. She was also a mother, a novelist, a screenwriter, and an intelligent, difficult, and determined woman. In 1952 she set off for England to pursue C. S. Lewis, the man she considered her spiritual guide and her intellectual mentor.
Out of a deep friendship grounded in faith, poetry,...
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