I’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, and parts of Mere Christianity, but nothing else C. S. Lewis has written could have prepared me for this novel. It is a retelling of the “myth” or legend of Cupid and Pysche; but while the myth itself can be told in a few paragraphs, this was so much more. It was the myth told from another point of view…
Orual, the oldest daughter of the king and, in all but biology, the mother of Pysche, is the author of this version. The book (most of it) is her complaint against the gods: revealing her side of the story. In this version, Orual is considered very ugly, but is apt as a counsellor and swordswoman. She is loved only by her Greek tutor, the Fox, and her youngest sister, beautiful and innocent Pysche (or Istra–in their tongue). This story covers a lifetime, in quite a bit of detail. To be honest I wasn’t sure I was going to finish it…but it does have its way of tormenting you until you find out how it ends.
Orual’s complaint is this, that she loved her sister and the gods took her (sister) away, but in such a way that Orual couldn’t be SURE it was them, so she acted to “save” her sister. One of the clearest things we do see through this story is how much one’s philosophy will bias one’s point of view. And for the young Orual, a battle between philosophies is what ends up bringing about the negative consequences–both for herself and her sister. But no matter the philosophy, truth has a way of forcing its way into lives.
This book explores philosophies, motivations, the meaning of love, the subtly of jealousy, and the twists and turns of suffering. It drags the reader to a mirror and forces him (or her) to take a long, hard look at himself (or herself)…just as Orual is revealed, so will we all be. It is aptly named, “Till We Have Faces”
The myth itself is told–fairly accurately–bit by bit; though judging from the authors’ note, with a little more finesse and a lot less lewdness than other re-tellings (for which I am grateful). It is not a “Christian” book, in that there are little to no allegories to Christianity. This is a hard book to read: not for the writing style and rhythm (though it does seem like a long book at times), but for the content (lots of negativity). But I think he ended it well, with a revealing of hope. Be warned: you will have a hard time forgetting it once you’ve read it. Are you up for the challenge?
Thank you to treeofideas.files.wordpress.com, where I was able to find a pdf of this book (for free).