A Grief Observed is a lucid description of an obscure, muddled process, a process almost universal, one with no logic and no timetable. It is an honest attempt to write about aspects of the human and the divine which, he fears, “won’t go into language at all”. At the heart of the enterprise is his quarrel with God, and in the end God wins, first philosophically, then emotionally.
But there is a puzzle as to how to categorise the book: where should it be shelved? Lewis’s reputation being what it is, it would be natural to place it under “religion”. But many of the people who need it would not find it there because, like Lewis, they are angrily running away from God, hurtling to abandon a being who seems to have abandoned them. It is more a book about doubt than about faith; it does not warn, exhort or seek to convince. Anger finds a voice in this book, more anger than the faithful are usually able to acknowledge. But it doesn’t belong in the “self-help” section either: it has no bullet points, suggests no programme, offers no cheering anecdotes.
What it does do is to make the reader live more consciously. Testimony from a sensitive and eloquent witness, it should be placed on a shelf that doesn’t exist, in the section called “The Human Condition”. It offers an interrogation of experience and a glimmer of hard-won hope. It allows one bewildered mind to reach out to another. Death is no barrier to that.
Hillary Mantel, ‘Re-reading C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed’, The Guardian, 27 December 2014