A Severe Mercy

A Severe Mercy

by Sheldon Vanauken

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

A heart-rending love story described by its author as “the spiritual autobiography of a love rather than of the lovers” about the author’s marriage and search for faith.

 

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.


A beloved, profoundly moving account of the author's marriage, the couple's search for faith and friendship with C. S. Lewis, and a spiritual strength that sustained Vanauken after his wife's untimely death. Replete with 18 letters from C.S. Lewis, A Severe Mercy addresses some of the universal questions that surround faith—the existence of God and the reasons behind tragedy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060688240
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/26/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 60,533
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)

About the Author

Sheldon Vanauken (1914-1996) was the author of Gateway to Heaven, The Glittering Illusion, and Under the Mercy, the sequel to A Severe Mercy.

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A Severe Mercy 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Mitton More than 1 year ago
I’ve read ASM probably a dozen times and with each reading something new stands out. I read it first as a young Christian, newly married and idealistic, and was frankly enchanted by the possibility of a romantic love that need never die. I didn’t notice then, as I do now, what other reviewers point out: that Van’s infatuation with his love is an infatuation with himself. That he and Davy were so self-absorbed that it must have been hard to breathe apart from each other. Or breathe in their presence. I find this far less appealing now as I did when I was young. And it’s always been interesting to me that their ‘Shining Barrier’ was only breached after their conversion. A young woman from England moved in with them for a time and while Davy’s attention, at least in part, turned to her faith, the woman’s attention turned to Van. He claimed to love her – all dutifully explained to his wife - but I wonder if he loved more the idea that she loved him? That he was again the center point of a romance. It’s a good question for the psychologists. Much of the book is taken up by Van’s conversion to Christianity. I much more enjoyed Davy’s: an aching yearning for wholeness and love. Van struggles with more mundane issues like embarrassment and cosmology. He writes off the ‘German demythologizers’ with a cavalier swipe of the pen and now, older and agnostic, I wonder why? I forgive Davy who grew up in a religious household but why does Van begin with the a priori thesis that the Gospels tell the truth? He was a historian. Why didn’t his training cause him to delve more deeply into these arguments? He never writes of grappling with textual criticism or the verities of the Gospels. This, at least to me, is a much more central and important question than ‘the gap behind’. Unable to make the leap forward – to become a Christian – he is aghast to learn that there is now a ‘gap behind’ after learning that Jesus is more than just a good chap. A deeper look at those demythologizers might have set him on another course. Make no mistake: I love the high mindedness of the book. Van and Davy are immersed in a rarified world of literature, music, art, and travel. This is no working man’s tale. Floating in the pool at Van’s family home they dream of life aboard a sailboat. Living on the sailboat they dream of life at Yale. After an officer’s life in the Navy – in Hawaii - they dream of life in England at Oxford. The book offers up a catalog of great reading and great music. Through their reference to ‘The Humoresque’ I am still in love with Dvorak. I still read Du Maurier and ‘Burnt Norton’. The book presents Christianity in a way that was new to me and non-stereotypical – Van, Davy, and their friends were intellectuals and equally at home in literature or science or history as they were in their faith. I had never encountered these kinds of Christians and the whole idea appealed to me deeply. The book is gorgeously written. The prose, though a bit spare, is wonderful. Think Hemmingway on the analyst’s couch. The story is absorbing and thought provoking. It is a wonderful read that I highly recommend to anyone, caveats aside.
1morechapter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This memoir is a book about life, marriage, friendship, and faith. Vanauken tells the story of how he and his wife's relationship changed from an intense, romantic love to one controlled by their Christian beliefs. That is not to say that their love wasn't intense or romantic after their conversion, but it did change significantly. He also details his wife's illness, death, and his own grief process afterwards.Most interesting to me were the letters exchanged between the Vanaukens (mostly Sheldon) and C.S. Lewis. The couple met Lewis while at Oxford and kept up a healthy correspondence with him after they moved back to the States. Lewis is my favorite author, so it was interesting to hear his viewpoints on a much more personal level. These exchanges were my favorite parts of the book.
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MercyStreet More than 1 year ago
Because I didn't want the inevitable ending to hit me between the eyes, I delayed finishing nearly every chapter. Instead of reading the book from beginning to end, I read a chapter every few days almost like straining clues from a diary in search of clues about the life of a long lost dear friend or loved one. The author captured relationship, devotion, passion and heartache with such ease the reader senses these human issues so tangible it seems they could be bottled and stored to be pulled from a cellar at will. His mentor, C. S. Lewis, directs him through a crisis of faith, opens the mysteries of grace, and charges him with a friendly conviction when times get tough. Mercy is defined, grace stands on it's own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bookluvr67 More than 1 year ago
You learn about their life, their love and their beliefs. Along the way, you will question your own beliefs and ideals. It is an inspiring and heart warming love story with a strong moral message. Perfect to read alone or share with a book group, it is sure to get you thinking and talking. Vanauken was one of the foremost minds of his time and his writing is a treat!
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DavidWhite More than 1 year ago
There's a very short list of books that I can say have profoundly impacted the way I live my life. This is one of them.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I first learned of Vanauken's book in the Wabash College Magazine published November 2006. At the time, my wife, my college lover of 37 years, was dying of cancer, and the brief description of the book spoke loudly to me. Reading Vanauken is like reviewing our lives, from the early Indiana locale, to Wabash College connections (my son), to the fratnerity house romance. But more, as I read the book, it reminded me of what my wife and I found as long time lovers, the realization that the best love is just two people sharing a common dream, and the crucial need to search for God. It is reminds, painfully, that helping your mate find God is the greatest gift, even if it requires a severe mercy to lead you(me)there. I am rereading it, and each time it digs more deeply into my psyche. The book is a definite gift for friends who experienced the joy of college love and are lucky enough to still hold that love.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though I cried a good deal while I read it, I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. Though it is a sad story, it is filled with hope and truth. You also get to meet C. S. Lewis in a way that you could never meet him through his books--that is, through the eyes of someone who really knew him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We have all read stories about the Prince saving the Princess and their perfect marriage and courtship forever and ever. Well, those are fairy-tales. 'A Severe Mercy' was, to me of course, a human story that everyone can relate to on many many levels. I felt that the struggles that Mr. Vanauken was going through were things that I as a Christian am going through as well. The truth that Sheldon brings to the pages of this book are unsurpassed and a read for anyone who is struggling with Christianity amidst a relationship. I now know what a true Christian marriage is about, the Love for the Lord, and the struggles that keep you there while still loving in a human way. I also found his wife, Jean, to be a remarkably wonderful example of the Christian wife. I will always look up to her as an example of what I need to be in any relationship that I come across. Please read this! You will not be disappointed!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so incredible!! Ths story of this man's life is one that we can relate to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A truly intimate look at an idylic love between a man and a woman set against the background of the idylic Love of God for them both. Love, Hope, Faith, Surrender, Perseverance, and Joy are among the themes the reader will be called to reflect on through the couse of the book. This story will move Christians to more personaly perceive the big picture Heaven brings to their everyday lives and challenge non Christians to understand the joy hidden within the sorrow. As Lewis says: 'Christians NEVER say 'goodbye!''
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an exceptionally written piece of work which combines love, tragedy, triumph, and a myriad of other themes. The overall message of the book should be inspiring as well as thought provoking. The love story will cause you to dream, the tragedy will wrench your heart, and the final triumph will send your spirits soaring. C.S. Lewis fans will also enjoy his short appearances.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You many never look at relationships or Christianity in the same light again. A Severe Mercy really gets down to the core of two things: 1) What it really means to share your life with someone and 2)Whether or not Christianity is defensible intellectually. I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks he/she has the answers to the above questions and/or someone who simply would like to read a beautiful love story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading it and I can't wait to read Under the Mercy. It's a true story of a love built up between a husband and wife that only God could break down. This book is hard for many reasons but the first is because it is a lesson that everyone needs to learn.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Examimes the severe mercy that God has. Well-written and a must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sheldon Vanauken, who I had the privilege of knowing personally, is the best writer I know of for putting you right into his experiences and letting you be right there with him. This, his masterpiece, is a wonderful and readable introduction to his writing. A student of C.S. Lewis and, like him, an Old Western Man, Van is able to share a profound life and a beautiful relationship with all his readers. You will not regret this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Severe Mercy was incredibly well written with Vaunauken expressing his feelings and thoughts very clearly throughout. It is a tremendous story of Pagan love turned Christian and the joy as well as the difficulties that resulted. Note: It will make you cry.