From Spare Oom to War Drobe: Travels in Narnia with my nine year-old self

A personal reading of the Seven Chronicles, blending literary criticism with memories of childhood passion for the world of Narnia


When I was a child I fell deeply in love with The Chronicles of Narnia. I read and re-read the books until they almost fell to pieces: I even wrote a book of stories set in that  world, complete with a poster-paint picture of Aslan on the homemade dust jacket. But others took their place as I grew up, and for years they sat unopened on my shelves. Had the charm faded? What might they mean to me as an adult?

‘From Spare Oom to War Drobe’ is a love letter to that childhood passion, as well as a reappraisal of The Chronicles of Narnia in the light of maturity and changing tastes. It is a journey through Narnia, hand in hand with my nine year-old self, tracing our way through Lewis’s thick forest of allusions not only to Christianity but to Plato, fairy tales, myths, legends, medieval romances, renaissance poetry and to other children’s books. We mostly agree – but not always!

What people are saying:

"Those of us who have visited Narnia through the books so often that we could recite our favourite moments and sentences, might not think that there is anything new waiting for us. In the role of a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, Katherine Langrish points out moments we missed, connections we hadn't made, and altogether takes us around a place we thought we knew and makes it finer and more interesting than it was before."

'Remembering her childhood fascination with the Chronicles of Narnia, Langrish adroitly deploys her nine year-old self and its reactions to point up differences in a child's and an adult's likely reception of particular moves by Lewis, but the meat of the book is a sustained incident-by-incident re-reading of the seven books - a truly excellent one, intelligent, informed, brilliantly responsive and some of the best appreciative writing about Narnia I have ever come across. It is writerly rather than academic, and I had no difficulty in whipping delightedly through the whole thing. The best book ever about why we love Narnia!'

"This loving, thoughtful, beautifully-written account of what Narnia means to the writer and to the wider world should be on every reader's bookshelf - right next, of course, to the Chronicles themselves!"

'From Spare Oom to War Drobe is an indispensable companion to the Chronicles of Narnia. Katherine Langrish captures the fragile ghosts of youthful reading, with the vivid excitements ... that come with being a nose-in-a-book and lost-to-the-world child.'

'Funny, fascinating, moving and fresh. I can’t think of anyone interested in Golden Age children’s books, CS Lewis or reading, who won’t fall on it with delight.'

“From Spare Oom to War Drobe, Katherine Langrish’s warm, perceptive new book, is a swift-moving read-through of the series with an informed, passionate friend. […] Langrish’s engagingly written summaries brought me hurtling and, I am not ashamed to say, sometimes with a tear in my eye, straight back to Narnia.”

“[Katherine Langrish] has written a book I have long yearned for, and would have written myself if I had only known how. … You will, I think, be enchanted … and made to think, and made to take greater pleasure in the Narnia series ever afterwards.”

“An impressive feat of imaginative projection is her ability to recapture the mind’s eye of her childhood, alongside her adult interpretation of the text.”

"A wonderful companion to CS Lewis’s Narnia novels, which captures the magic of books as a doorway into other worlds while also thoughtfully exploring Lewis’s religious didacticism."

“There is a growing sub-genre of books about the experience of reading, for example … The Child that Books Built (Francis Spufford) [...] It is fascinating to watch people unpick these threads of what makes them, and From Spare Oom is a sparkling addition to the set.”

'A love letter to a fantasy world, as well as sharp-eyed literary criticism and an erudite survey of Lewis' intellectual influences.'

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