Title: Till We Have Faces
Author: C.S. Lewis
Genre: Mythology Retelling
Length: 356 pages
Release Date: January 1, 1956
In this timeless tale of two mortal princesses- one beautiful and one unattractive- C.S. Lewis reworks the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche into an enduring piece of contemporary fiction. This is the story of Orual, Psyche’s embittered and ugly older sister, who posessively and harmfully loves Psyche. Much to Orual’s frustration, Psyche is loved by Cupid, the god of love himself, setting the troubled Orual on a path of moral development.
Set against the backdrop of Glome, a barbaric, pre-Christian world, the struggles between sacred and profane love are illuminated as Orual learns that we cannot understand the intent of the gods “till we have faces” and sincerity in our souls and selves.
I read this for my book club in January. C.S. Lewis considered this to be his best work. I only have two Narnia books to compare this to, but I respectfully disagree. I love Greek mythology, but this retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth was not for me.
I thought the story was convoluted and sometimes boring. While Lewis explored some thought-provoking themes about the relationship between mortals and gods, his main point didn’t become clear until he explicitly stated it at the end, and I don’t think everything that happened in the book contributed to developing his themes effectively. I wanted more from this! I also did not like the main character at all or the gross, made up names (Orual? Ungit? bleh).
I don’t regret reading this book because it inspired me to read more Greek mythology and more classics… just not this one. While I didn’t like the book, I enjoyed discussing it with my book club, and it brought out my inner literary analysis scholar.