Wow!I am so glad I returned to this story!It took me less time to read it this second time but I got so much more out of it.Rereading Williams’s tale in relation to C. S. Lewis's book The Great Divorce made all the difference.Having read Many Dimensions, another Williams thriller, during the intervening years also helped.And Thomas Howard’s book, The Novels of Charles Williams, also made a tremendous difference in allowing me to penetrate the miasma of descriptive prose for which Williams is famous.(Thanks again Julie!)
All I can say is do not be fooled by the title.Please.The descent part is only half of the story.There is redemption and salvific joy here too.Charles Williams wrote to show that our choices are all-critical and always matter.In Descent into Hell action centers around the production of a play which takes place on Battle Hill—named for the many historic military battles which have occurred on the locale.As this is a story about the all-important battle for souls, this name also serves as a spiritual double entendre.Near the end, there was a glorious climax where a dying woman’s request, a young girl’s fear, and a new friend’s tested promise all come together in a moment of divine propinquity which, when I read it, had tears running down my cheeks.It was so beautiful.
There is also no denying the great darkness in descent.I believe Williams meant this to be a warning.It is certainly a thriller.What struck me were the characters that chose hell, turned away from others, were rejecting and/or quitters.So long as one persisted in something, with someone, somewhere, there was hope. The message I take from this is, don’t ever give up.Continue to reach out to others.
Another beautiful passage in the book is where Williams describes one character offering Joy in exchange for carrying the other person’s fear.What a powerful image of love-in-action.
(ORIGINAL REVIEW) December 16, 2008:One part horror, one part salvation and the rest the possibility for either, Descent Into Hell isn't all as ominous as the title sounds.Yes, there is at least one character who allows delusion to sweep away reason and reality.The reader watches in fearful fascination as the deadly descent begins and progresses.
This was my first ever book by Charles Williams, a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and a member of the famous Inklings, the literary pub group they belonged to.How I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at those meetings!I can just imagine Williams reading this book to his compatriots.No blood and gore thriller produced today, no matter how fiendish, can surpass the reality of an individual succumbing to evil without a fight; it is chilling.
If the book were only about darkness, however, I don't think I could have finished it.Instead, there is a parallel story about another character that is also haunted, disappointed and apparently even more justified in following a path of descent, which does not.Descent contains many beautiful passages, hidden or double meanings, places where you want to pause and reflect on the author's full intention.It is a book worth reading slowly.Williams believed that everything which happens has an underlying spiritual meaning.It was the spiritual side of things he was interested in—the physical world was — is — clothing so-to-speak to dress what is really happening.That belief is not too far from Lewis’ own Shadowlands concept.Again, just imagine the great conversations they had!
Read Descent Into Hell but plan to take your time with it.It can be confusing in places.I admit that I did not understand all of it.I'd love to find a William's expert somewhere who could go over the book with me because there are confusing bits here and there, but even so, it was an incredible book.I'm sure I'd raise my rating to 5 stars if I could only understand it all.I definitely plan to read it again and – God willing – I want to read the rest of his books.