Number of pages: 208
This is a book I absolutely loved as a kid so decided to read it again. It's not the first in the Narnia series, but it was the first written and most scholars agree that this should be book to start with when reading the Chronicles of Narnia.
The story opens with four children - Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy - being evacuated during World War 2 to an old country house inhabited by a professor and his housekeeper. When the weather prevents them from being able to explore the countryside, Lucy discovers that the wardrobe in an attic room leads into a woodland that turns out to be the land of Narnia.
She is approached by a faun by the name of Mr. Tumnus, who befriends her but secretly plans to hand her over to the self-proclaimed ruler of Narnia, the White Witch, who has cast a spell over Narnia to make it "always winter, never Christmas". Lucy manages to convince Mr. Tumnus to let her go and they become friends.
Of course, no one on the outside world believes where Lucy has been, and when Edmund accidentally finds Narnia and meets the White Witch, he still pretends this is all a game. Eventually all four children find themselves in Narnia while trying to hide from visitors, and this is when the adventure begins and the children find themselves being told that the great lion, Aslan, is on the move and that only he can rescue Narnia from the White Witch.
This book is, at face value, an enchanting children's tale about a fantasy world/parallel universe; anyone who reads deeper into this might even see parallels between the war that is taking place in Britain at the time of the book and the conflict between good and evil that takes place in the book. Many people who read this book will surely realise that this is also a Christian book, and in this case it is mostly an allegory to the life of Jesus (who is represented in the Narnia series by Aslan). The most obvious reference comes near to the end...
[Spoiler (click to open)]Aslan allows himself to be sacrificed in the place of Edmund, who previously betrayed his brother and sisters. This fulfils an ancient prophecy and after his death, Aslan is resurrected.
When I read Michael Ward's The Narnia Code, I found that there were other similes made by the theme of the children being crowned in Cair Paravel to the concept of "wearing a crown" in Heaven that features in the Bible.
Overall, I found this book to be just as enjoyable as it was when I was young; certainly reading it now, I can tell it is aimed at a young audience because of the way it is written (C.S. Lewis constantly reminds his audience they should not shut themselves in a wardrobe), it the final battle felt like it was a bit too short, but that was mainly from having seen TV and film adaptations that milked that particular scene for all that it was worth. I also liked the characterisation of the children, particularly how Edmund starts off as a character who should be very dislikable, but gets transformed by the books events into a heroic character. C.S. Lewis was an incredible writer and I will hopefully get a chance to re-read the rest of the Narnia series soon.
Next book: The Truth (Terry Pratchett)