Vanauken chronicles the birth of a powerful pagan love borne out of the relationship he shares with his wife, Davy, and describes the growth of their relationship and the dreams that they share.
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Trying to condense this book into a tiny review will be rather difficult for me. This is THE FIRST book I recommend to anyone in any conversation any time literature comes up. By turns this book is one of the most romantic, beautifully written, intellectually stimulating, and downright entertaining books I’ve ever held in my two hands. For months after I finished the book I would see it sitting on my desk and grow sad thinking of how much I missed time with Sheldon and Davie. Countless times I’v
it was amazing
A Severe Mercy can almost be called a foreshadowing of A Grief Observed. But of course that is only from our perspective looking back on the four lives involved. Sheldon Vanauken wrote A Severe Mercy about the love of his life, Jean “Davy” Palmer Davis. It’s a beautiful love story, one of the most idyllic I’ve ever read, perhaps too idyllic, but poignant and breathtaking all the same. The book traces their relationship from courtship through the early pagan (the author’s term) years of marriage
While I enjoyed the book very much, as a woman and a mother, I did constantly wonder (as I read the book) at their decision not to have children. The author announces this fact early on in their pagan years which the couple dubbed, “The Shining Barrier”, presumably a barrier of love which they erected around themselves to protect themselves from the outside world. Later, however, when they converted to Christianity, there was no mention they ever revisited this decision. Davy was still young enough at the time to bear children. I couldn’t help thinking and wondering if — as time went by — the desire to become a mother didn’t occasionally tug at her heart. Vanauken never mentions it and at the end of the book he describes burning her diaries.
In an interesting aside however, Lewis does chastize his friend, and very severely too, for the couple’s decision to exclude children from their marriage, but only some time after Davy’s death.
Two of the many delights in this book are numerous beautiful poems the author wrote to his beloved bride and a large collection of letters from C.S. Lewis.
An excellent autobiography of Love. Beautifully written tribute to Davy as well; I only wish I heard more of her voice.