My rating: 5 of 5 stars
On the back cover of this book, the Saturday Review states, “Reading Charles Williams is an unforgettable experience.” Its true. Coming away from one of his novels, the world always seems intensified, as mediated through his vision. He gives me a taste of reality that rings true and reawakens my deepest convictions about the way things really are.
I am sure I held my breath for entire paragraphs during the unfolding of this novel, almost afraid to break the spell of the words.
In Descent into Hell, Williams uses a play within a play, within a setting that is itself merely a shadow of the cosmos, to build a story that simultaneously pierces several layers of heaven and earth and pulls them into each other. The characters are recognizable and, as a reader, I was constantly trying to work out which one was me. This had the effect of the best kind of fantasy literature, enabling a vicarious exploration of all the “what ifs” of our possible selves and their choices that is both instructive and therapeutic.
If you like a story that processes your soul and opens your eyes to the darkness of dark and the lightness of light as well as the blueness of blue and the redness of red, dive in.
This is one of those few books I expect to revisit – just after I’ve read everything else he’s written.