View Full Version : Till We Have Faces

31st July 09, 09:01 PM
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This is my favorite book. I read it every year, sometimes twice! This novel was C.S. Lewis' last work before he passed away. If you don't know who C.S. Lewis is he's mostly known for his theology books Surprised by Joy/Mere Christianity, allegories The Screwtape Letters (a book where the protagonist is a demon), and his children's sci-fi Out of the Silent Planet and fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia books. He was a member of the "Inklings" writers group along with Tolkien.

This book is wildly different from anything you've read of his however.

I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods. I have no husband nor child, nor hardly a friend, through whom they can hurt me. My body, this lean carrion that still has to be washed and fed and have clothes hung about it daily with so many changes, they may kill as soon as they please. The succession is provided for. My crown passes to my nephew.
Being, for all these reason, free from fear, I will write in this book what no one who has happiness would dare to write. I will accuse the gods, especially the god who lives on the Grey Mountain. That is, I will tell all he has done to me from the very beginning, as if I were making my complaint of him before a judge. But there is no judge between gods and men, and the god of the mountain will not answer me. Terrors and plagues are not an answer. I write in Greek as my old master taught it to me. It may some day happen that a traveller from the Greeklands will again lodge in this palace and read the book. Then he will talk of it among the Greeks...

Lewis here has rewritten the old myth of Psyche and Cupid. He has done something quite extraordinary though by telling the entire tale through her elder, hideous, and embittered sister Orual.


Throughout the tale Lewis has you follow her throughout her life and he has put so much pain and sorrow and just love into that character she feels real. To me when I read it I feel her pain and know her troubles. The way he writes it it's almost as if he had been born a woman and hideous and lived his whole life that way.

Orual is such a compelling character you learn to love her and hate her at once and throughout the novel as she explores life, love, and hatred.

The major theme that runs throughout the novel is the nature of man and divine love. Yet unlike his theologies or his allegories this is told entirely through a pagan perspective. There is no thin veil of storyline hinting towards christianity although anyone who is a christian can read that into the novel. The story stands on its own. Blood sacrifice and dark ritual in a fictional barbarian and wild kingdom called Glome in a world before Christ are all used to set the stage of Orual's dealings with the gods.

As you follow Orual through her life the backdrop of the myth slowly unfolds. Eventually the myth comes to its climax and you are left with Orual, broken and full of the venom of twisted love. Eventually she moves into her role as heir to the throne and becomes a prosperous and powerful queen who is loved and feared by all. Yet, the entire time wearing a veil, mask, or cowl so that nobody would see her hideousness.

And thus you find the title of the story as Orual comes to grips with her life, her love, and her constant struggle against the divine.

I tried to do this book justice in my review. There are so many passages and lines I would want to quote that are written so beautifully in such a sublime script that could only come from the hand of a writer who has seen so very much of life and is about to pass. But the more I looked for them the more I found myself quoting entire passages and well... I'd rather you just read the book. :)

Also, depending on which publishing you read... the books have some amazing artwork in them.

1st August 09, 12:04 AM
I really enjoyed Till We Have Faces; it somehow managed to convey the same GOD JESUS GOD GOD message as Chronicles of Narnina without being awful like the Chronicles of Narnia were. He did it tactfully and intelligently this time around. And the writing is just far superior to anything else of his I've read.
Definitely my favorite CS Lewis piece.

1st August 09, 12:43 AM
Excellent book, I need to read it again (read it years ago).

1st August 09, 06:27 PM
Great review, Resolve. Lewis had a marvellous eye for the fragile, the tragic.

2nd August 09, 06:06 AM
Looks like I should have read this before going to the library yesterday.... I'll be going back soon anyhow.. Thanks!