Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams (1931)

At its best, The Place of the Lion is a story with striking imagery, inspiring ideas, and explorations of some hard to grasp aspects of faith. At its worst, it is a bit of a job to read.

The Place of the Lion was one of Williams’ early efforts at writing a novel, and it shows. It shows in the impression one gets that Williams was trying so hard to pour all of the ideas that inspired the story onto the page that he forgot to consider if he really had a complete story to tell. It shows in the way the text gets so bogged down in philosophy that the plot stalls out and eventually goes away. However, anyone who is familiar with Williams and enjoys his books is not there for the story primarily. It is the ideas that matter. Truthfully, he does a better job at melding compelling philosophy with magical storytelling elsewhere. This example would not be the place to start a relationship with Williams’ writing.

Basically, the plot of The Place of the Lion (such as it is) is similar to the 1960 film “The Village of the Damned.” A small British village is slowly isolated from the world, only in this case it is an invasion of Platonic archetypes that causes all the problems. Using this device, Williams explores the nature of reality, faith, and good versus evil. His speculations are not always satisfactory or even always engaged in with a clear goal in mind, but they are interesting to entertain. That being said, most readers today will be challenged to work through the thought process, and most Christians will find these experiments less relevant than in the other Williams novels so far reviewed here at NonModern.

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