Till We Have Faces – A Book Review

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I need to tell you about something. What is it you ask? Only the very best novel you’ve never read. Never fear, I’ve read it, and if I get my way, you will too. And you’ll cry, and write quotes from it all over your textbooks, arms, and post it notes…..oh wait, you’re not a tween girl anymore? And you say I’m not either? That’s not fair, I’m my own person! You can’t tell me how to live my life!!! Cough, ahem. I get myself worked up sometimes.

You, like me, probably read the Chronicles of Narnia as a kid and swiftly fell in love with it. The mysterious creatures, the compelling characters with all of their relatable , human flaws  and conflicting endings that leave you aching for just one more book. But I have good news for you! C.S. Lewis wrote books for grown ups, and not just the manual for Christian Apologetics, either. He wrote the Space Triology, which if you like sci-fi, mythology, and/or British humor, you should read immediately. But, my very favorite book he ever wrote (It was also his wife’s favorite, as well as J.R.R. Tolkien’s….so there, I’m pretty sophisticated, huh?) is ‘Till We Have Faces’. Definitely his greatest work in my opinion. Why, pray tell? Well, thanks for asking, let me get started.

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As the subtext in the above picture says, ‘Till We Have Faces’ is a ‘Myth Retold’. The greek myth of Psyche and Cupid (I spent most of my middle school years reading greek myths instead of doing math, so, yeah….I was easily engrossed by this book) to be exact. Basically, the selfish king of Glome has three daughters, the oldest, Orual is our heroine. Orual raises her younger sisters, only to have her beloved baby sister, Pysche, the only person Orual truly loves, stolen from her by the gods. Orual eventually becomes an embittered, old, spinster warrior Queen, and not in a cool way like Boudica or the Amazons. At the end of  her long, tragic life, she writes her complaint to the gods so that other people can read it and know how evil the gods truly are, if they exist at all. She then crosses over the river Styx and into the underworld where she discovers the true meaning of her life and everything that happened to her. For more thorough plot summaries check out these articles:

Redeeming God – We Cannot See Till We Have Faces 

Be Thinking – Chronicles of Heaven Unshackled

“It was when I was happiest that I longed most… because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it… It almost hurt me, I felt like a bird in a cage when all the other birds of its kind are flying home… The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing – to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from… – my country, the place where I ought to have been born” 

― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

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The reason I love this story isn’t necessarily the plot, which admittedly, comes across as a bit of a downer, but by C.S. Lewis’ ability to overwhelm you with the story and get you to empathize with the main character. Not to mention, the unusual setting of a Greek Myth! Lewis’ love for philosophy and ancient history really shines in this novel. As Orual tells her story you start to relate to her. Her anger,insecurities, and prejudices are all justified, and you can’t help but to feel the same way she does. Yet, by the end of the story, Lewis turns it around and makes you question whether or not you were right or fair to relate to her. Did you let Orual’s judgements cloud your own?

If you love philosophy, mythology, C.S. Lewis, or are just looking for a really great novel, do yourself a favor, and check it out. Then we can talk for hours about it and bond.

Do you have a favorite novel that everyone should read?

– Bekah

“And for all I can tell, the only difference is that what many see we call a real thing, and what only one sees we call a dream. But things that many see may have no taste or moment and things that are shown only to one may be spears and water-spouts of truth from the very depth of truth.” 
― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

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“The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered. Lightly men talk of saying what they mean. Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, ‘Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.’ A glib saying. When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

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