The first full biography of Joy Davidman brings her out from C. S. Lewisâs shadow to reveal a powerful writer and thinker.
Joy Davidman is known, if she is known at all, as the wife of C. S. Lewis. Their marriage was immortalized in the film Shadowlands and Lewis's memoir, A Grief Observed.
Now, through extraordinary new documents as well as years of research and interviews, Abigail Santamaria brings Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis to the page in the fullness and depth she deserves. A poet and radical, Davidman was a frequent contributor to the communist vehicle New Masses and an active member of New York literary circles in the 1930s and 40s. After growing up Jewish in the Bronx, she was an atheist, then a practitioner of Dianetics; she converted to Christianity after experiencing a moment of transcendent grace.
A mother, a novelist, a vibrant and difficult and intelligent woman, she set off for England in 1952, determined to captivate the man whose work had changed her life. Davidman became the intellectual and spiritual partner Lewis never expected but cherished. She helped him refine his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, and to write his novel Till We Have Faces.
Their relationship - begun when Joy wrote to Lewis as a religious guide - grew from a dialogue about faith, writing, and poetry into a deep friendship and a timeless love story.
||Abigail Santamaria holds an MFA in non-fiction writing from Columbia University and has received fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation, Jentel Arts and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.Joy is her first book. She lives in New York City.
A superb researcher, Santamaria has gathered a vast array of previously unmined resources that illuminate the complexity of Joy's character and help deepen our appreciation of what drew her to Lewis - and Lewis to her.' Marjorie Lamp Mead, author of A Reader's Guide Through the Wardrobe 'Born a Jew but jolted into full Christianity by a soul-shattering vision ... Davidman was manipulative, endearing, brilliant and obsessive - and Lewis, one of the most influential and beloved spiritual writers of the 20th century, fell in love with all of it. Davidman's search for meaning and her final arrival at love will resonate deeply long after the reader has closed Santamaria's masterful biography.
- Kate Buford, author of Native American Son
Joy is a delightful combination of romantic quest and intellectual adventure, and a surprisingly fun and fast-paced romp through a fascinating life. I read most of this book in one sitting, genuinely curious about whether this feisty, brilliant woman was going to get her happy ending. Abigail Santamaria has made a truly impressive, even enviable, debut as a writer and a historian.
- Debby Applegate, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography and author of the forthcoming Madam: The Notorious Life and Times of Polly Adler
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... With access to unpublished documents and family papers, Santamaria has fashioned a compelling narrative, remaining cleareyed about her subject's many personal failings.
- Kirkus Reviews
A biography about the brilliant and brash New Yorker who captured C.S. Lewis's heart was long overdue, so I'm thrilled to report that Abigail Santamaria does not disappoint. Her highly readable book should be the definitive biography of Joy Davidman for a long time to come. There are so many surprises in it that it might even have been titled 'Surprised by Joy' -- if that title weren't already taken.
- Eric Metaxas, New York Times Best-selling author of Miracles and Bonhoeffer
This brilliantly researched biography has changed me for good. Until I read this book I could never take Joy Davidman to my heart; she now stands before me as real and believable as anyone I know. Joy offers a wonderful account of an unforgettable woman and her vibrant life; it is no wonder C.S. Lewis loved her so much.
- Walter Hooper, Personal secretary to C.S. Lewis, Literary Advisor to the C.S. Lewis Estate, and editor of 'The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis'