I recently had a friendly argument with a friend, regarding who was the better writer--Tolkien or Lewis. I maintained that Tolkien was the superior wrI recently had a friendly argument with a friend, regarding who was the better writer--Tolkien or Lewis. I maintained that Tolkien was the superior writer. My friend suggested "Till We Have Faces" to counter my argument. I'd read it many years before, appreciated it, but largely forgot it. After reading it again, it is not so clear to me that Tolkien was the better writer.
Till We Have Faces is simply one of the best novels ever written. There are few novels of such moral and spiritual complexity as this, with a depth for study and insight into the human condition as this. Yes, it is a difficult read, but no more difficult than any good book. If a book is not difficult to read, what have you gained from it when you're done?
Lewis has taken an ancient story and revitalized it in a way that adds understanding to the original story, but also improves upon it in a marvelous way. Another reviewer has written that Lewis doesn't start a book with an idea, but with a story. That is a good way to describe the complexity of "Till We Have Faces." Some could try to argue that Lewis' idea here, is to write about belief and doubt. But there is so much more to the story that must be ignored with such a simple argument.
Yes, the book is about belief and doubt, but it is also about identity, perception, friendship, loyalty, duty, tradition, and on and on. Lewis layered this novel such that one experiences a great breadth of human experience as Orual becomes more self-conscious and exposed to the truth.
One of the glories of this book is its demonstration of how different people perceive the same events and same relationships. It exposes us to the perspective of "the other" in a way that exposes self-righteousness and self-justification.
This is a beautiful novel, written beautifully, telling a heart-breaking tale, that ultimately finds a redemption beyond the imagination of the characters. This is one of the finest novels you'll read and it is a disgrace that it is so under appreciated....more