Sorry, but this review will be a little different due to the fact that this was a hard book to review. I bought Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis in college after a recommendation from a friend, but it has taken me this long to finally get around to reading it. There were a couple of times that I tried to start, but it’s not the sort of story that grabs you from the beginning. In fact, the whole story is pretty slow-paced, though the book is not all that long. It’s “a myth retold” of Psyche and Cupid, who I knew nothing of going into this. It might have helped to know beforehand, but knowing after did not help me feel an absolute resolution from the end. Nor did it help me fully understand all the things I know C.S. Lewis was probably trying to say and I feel I did not quite understand. This book could be slow, confusing, captivating, clear, mysterious, or thoughtful, and who knows, maybe that’s the point.
The ending did not feel very resolute for me. At some point, I found myself connecting with the main character, Orual. I wanted the answers to her questions just as she did. Why did the gods demand her sister? Or did they? What happened to her on the evening she last saw her? Why would they make her suffer? The ending that I felt was supposed to reveal all this did not give me all the answers I hoped for. Maybe I missed the point. Or maybe the point was we can’t know all of God’s mysterious ways.
While reading reviews of the book on Goodreads while still trying to process it all, I learned that C.S. Lewis started writing this book when he was an atheist, but at some point stopped, and then picked it up years later when he was a Christian. I didn’t see any clear parallels to Christianity or theology, which again, makes me wonder if I missed something. I saw a couple of theories and ideas in reviews, but I didn’t want to read too many of them because I wanted to figure it out myself. Well, over a week later I haven’t. Maybe years from now, I’ll try re-reading it.
Here’s what I will say. This book is based on a myth, and mythology does not really interest me much. C.S. Lewis was a much smarter man than I am, so I believe there is a message in here I am missing. Though it was slow in parts and not always exciting, there were parts that piqued my interest and kept me turning the page.
I’ve had an extremely hard time deciding on a rating for this, and nothing feels right. 3 stars feels like a slap to Lewis since this was his favorite work, and four stars makes it seem like I was just a little bit more into it than I was. I don’t want to do a half rating, and I can’t for my Goodreads rating, but I’m giving it a 3.5 anyway. I liked it. I almost really liked it. It was just a hard read in the sense that I just don’t completely understand it and that frustrates me.
If you’ve read Till We Have Faces, please let me know your thoughts! And if you haven’t read it but are considering it, I would recommend you check out multiple reviews before deciding if it’s your cup of tea, unless you really love Lewis and just want to read it for that purpose alone. I don’t believe it would be a waste of your time.
What book was hard for you to process?
I was waiting for this review after you mentioned it while I discussed my troubles with Grendel! Honestly, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has struggled with a book lately. It’s just really frustrating to feel like you’re not getting it, no matter how beautiful the writing is or how much you want to love it. It makes it that much harder when you go to rate it too, because really, what rating accurately reflects “I don’t know”?! I don’t think I’ll read this one, but that’s partially because I haven’t really read any of his other work either besides The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I’d pry read the read of his series first before trying some of his other work!
It made me feel good to review your review of Grendell as well for the same reasons! I meant to ask a friend of mine who’s a big Lewis fan his thoughts on the book when I saw him last week but forgot. Hopefully I’ll remember some other time and maybe he can shed some light for me! Yet at the same time, I want to really understand it myself!
I have books like this left over, unfinished from my studying days. I should really work out a schedule to begin reading through them all! Great review.
Unfinished books are so hard to get back to!
I think it is so difficult to review classic books sometimes, because obviously they have a lot of merit, but if you personally didn’t like them, it doesn’t seem fair to give it a bad rating, but it’s too difficult to give it a good one! But I think you gave it the right rating. I’ve never read this book, and am not sure I’ll feel up to deciphering it, but I am intrigued by the fact that C.S. Lewis started it when he was atheist and finished it as a Christian. I wonder if it changed the direction he took the story.
Thanks! It was difficult as I did like this book, but I didn’t love it or get as much out of it as I was expecting to based on what I know others (whose opinion I respect and generally align with) felt about it.
I love mythology, and had no idea C.S. Lewis had written a book like this. I guess that’s not too surprising since I haven’t actually read anything of his other than the first Narnia Chronicles, back when I was a wee reader with fake plastic glasses. I’m sure had I kept on with the series I would have eventually explored further into his body of work, but the credit definitely goes to you to introducing me to this book. You’ve got me wondering if a knowledge of the story of Cupid and Psyche could produce more enjoyment out of reading this book. Putting it on my TBR list to find out.
There was a little short explanation of the original myth at the back of the book, but yes, I think if you have more knowledge prior to reading that could help the enjoyment factor.
I love mythology a lot and I actually don’t know anything about C.S. Lewis’ work beyond the Narina chronicles. I don’t mind checking out this book at some point. Although I feel like his writing style is very similar to Tolkien’s writing style kind of. So it might take a little bit of time to get used too. I hadn’t actually heard of this book until I saw your review, so thank you for introducing it to me :).
Lewis and Tolkien were good friends and colleagues so they probably did write similarly (it’s been a while since I’ve read any Tollien). This is a lesser-known work of Lewis’; if you read it I’ll be interested in hearing what you thought!