Read: for February FBC Book Club (Harcourt Brace & Company, 324 pages)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (finished 3/17/10)
Synopsis: At once more human and more mythic than his Perelandra trilogy, Lewis’s short novel of love, faith, and transformation (both good and ill) offers the reader much food for thought in a compact, impressively rich story. Less heavy-handedly Christian-allegorical than Narnia, Till We Have Faces gives us characters who remind us of people we know facing choices and difficulties we recognize. This deceptively simple book takes on new depth with each rereading.
Overall Impression: I can usually sprint right through a book, especially if it’s one that I’m really enjoying. CS Lewis is the exception to the rule, however. It’s nearly impossible to read through his work quickly — at least if you want to retain anything. So I slowly worked my way through Till We Have Faces, marvelling at the beautiful language, the rich wisdom, and engrossing story line. Lewis re-tells the myth of the god Cupid and the beautiful Psyche through the eyes of Psyche’s ugly sister, Orual. I’m always struck by Lewis’s use of language. It’s spare in places; mellifluous in others. It flows and stops and starts and flows again. It’s not particularly easy to read — I found myself re-reading paragraphs — but I really do love the way that he writes.
I’d never heard of this book until a friend mentioned it and then soon after my book club chose it. Despite its relative anonymity, many consider it to be Lewis’s greatest acheivement in fiction. The story of Cupid and Psyche was one that I was only partially familiar with. Lewis stays fairly true to the original Greek myth, but expands and plays with the story, giving it a fresh perspective through Orual’s eyes. I found myself pausing frequently to try and relate some of the themes and ideas to my walk of faith — sometimes it was like being knocked upside the head, and other times I found that there were no connections. It wasn’t a thinly veiled Christian allegory — it was a mythical story that had Truth in it. My favorite line of the whole book (which my friend Matt also picked up on in his review of the book) was this:
I ended my first book with the words no answer. I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words.
It’s little bits like that that make reading Lewis so worthwhile. We have these complaints against God. We shout words and air greivances and our hearts become bitter and hard. I’ve been rolling Lewis’s words around in my head for the last few weeks, thinking about them and realizing that we spend so much time looking for answers in words, when the answer isn’t actually in words at all.
Pros: Lewis’s writing is stunning; the story is beautiful; the themes and morals are true.
Cons: Might be a little hard to read for some people.
Other books I’ve read by CS Lewis: Mere Christianity, the Screwtape Letters, and the entire Narnia series
Other blogger reviews: Random Acts of Verbiage