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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Till We Have Faces

Author: C.S. Lewis
Originally Published: 1956
Edition Courtney Read Published: 2009
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Narrated By: Nadia May

The Story

Till We Have FacesFrom the Scribd book page:

C. S. Lewis reworks the timeless myth of Cupid and Psyche into an enduring piece of contemporary fiction in this novel about the struggle between sacred and profane love. Set in the pre-Christian world of Glome on the outskirts of Greek civilization, it is a tale of two princesses: the beautiful Psyche, who is loved by the god of love himself, and Orual, Psyche’s unattractive and embittered older sister, who loves Psyche with a destructive possessiveness. Her frustration and jealousy over Psyche’s fate sets Orual on the troubled path of self-discovery. Lewis’s last work of fiction, this is often considered his best by critics.

The Response

I have long had a love for mythology. One of my electives in college was one that studied folklore, mythology and fairy tales. The story of Cupid and Psyche, though the story of a Roman god, was not one we studied not in the section on mythology, but in our fairy tales section, as has been theorized that the tale of Beauty and the Beast is actually an adaptation of Cupid and Psyche.

I’ve had C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces on my radar for quite a while – I really do enjoy Lewis’ writing. He tells such wonderful stories that are able to bring the fantastical into real characters. Both his fiction and non-fiction are so smart. This one was both so different and yet was exactly what I expected from one of Lewis’ fantasy books.

It is definitely hard to compare this to Lewis’s other works, however, even to say it is considered his best. It was phenomenal, but there is one thing that I expect from one of Lewis’s fiction books – Christian allusions. It’s there in The Chronicles of Narnia, The Space Trilogy, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce… Goodness knows, it’s one of the reasons so many older people seem to not like the Narnia books. I didn’t get that feeling from this book. At all. It was like Lewis was focused completely on the story and not worrying about making it spread Christianity; it definitely make this so different from what I expected.

As far as it being exactly what I expected… well, the characters are wonderfully developed, the writing is beautiful, the pacing keeps you interested in the story the whole time… In all honesty, it’s a hard book to step away from.

This story was all narrated by Psyche’s older sister, Orual, and I loved seeing this story from her perspective. (For those who don’t know the story of Cupid and Psyche, go and familiarize yourself with it right now.) From Lewis’s retelling, I can understand why Psyche’s sister would try to convince her to try to see Cupid, in case he was actually some crazy scary person that you wouldn’t want to be married to. Or in case Psyche was actually crazy (as in Lewis’s version, Cupid’s castle is actually invisible to Orual). It definitely made the character of Orual so much more relatable and empathizable.

I also really loved how this story very much showed how Orual developed into the older bitter character that she is by the end of the book. It was like the whole voice of the character was so drastically different, even though for the most part this book was formed like it was written by Orual late in life looking back at everything in her life that relates to Psyche.

Lewis was able to take this story and update it so that it felt like a much more modern fantasy story because everything was not so cut and dry with what characters roles were, and because they are so much more dimensional.

The Bottom Line

Definitely highly recommended for fantasy fans.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:09 am December 15, 2014.
Category: Speculative Fiction
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