22 February 2014

Till We Have Faces

     I recently read, at the recommendation of my sister, Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. It is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. I was a little hesitant to read it, mainly because my sister read it for a college theology class. It didn't sound like pleasure reading to me. But I'm glad I ran out of books and decided to give it a try.
     The main character in the novel is Orual, Psyche's half-sister. Orual and her sister Redival are the daughters of their father, the King of Glome, and his first wife. The book begins with Orual stating that she is writing to accuse the gods of depriving her life of all happiness. She explains that she is old and dying, and has no reason to fear the gods' punishment for her complaint. Then she goes on to tell about her childhood, the day the king's second wife came, and when Psyche was born. Psyche's name in the language of Glome is Istra, but Orual was taught Greek by her slave tutor, and likes to refer to her half-sister by the Greek version of her name. Orual dotes on Psyche and loves her like a mother, a child and a sister. She believes Psyche is perfect. Things get messy when she stops believing that.

     I won't tell you the whole story. It would take far too long, as it's a rather complex plot. But I will tell you what I thought of it. The characters were all very well thought-out and had real emotions. There were, as is typical of C. S. Lewis, many allegorical aspects of the story, and especially in the word choice and writing style. The plot was unusual and intriguing, and moved along at a good pace. There were some instances of what seemed like chaos to me, and I got thoroughly confused. But such moments were generally resolved by the next chapter, and were almost always important to the plot. I can imagine some of the content and references being weird or foreign for people who are not familiar with Greek myths. But really, C. S. Lewis made it play out more like a fairy tale than a myth, structure- and style-wise. Oh, and I will warn you, it is heavily introspective. The action is minimal, though it has its moments.
     Over all, it was a very interesting book, and one that I will probably read again at another point in life to see if I get more out of it. (Yeah, it's one of those books.) I recommend it, especially if you're looking for a challenging-but-fun book!


  1. I read that book when I was about your age... maybe a bit older. I really enjoyed it and had the same thought of wanting to read it again! I still haven't but would like to soon. Maybe put it aside for me to read this summer! =]

  2. Claudia, I think it may have been during your junior or senior year? Maria, I have somewhere a Hillside Education study guide on it, Margot Davidson who runs that publishing business is a graduate of TAC.


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