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Till We Have Faces

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  63,298 ratings  ·  5,224 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 313 pages
Published August 6th 2006 by Harcourt Paperbacks (first published 1956)
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Steve I read this book when I was a junior in high school and enjoyed it very much, but not as much as Lewis' "Out of the Silent Planet", which I read in th…moreI read this book when I was a junior in high school and enjoyed it very much, but not as much as Lewis' "Out of the Silent Planet", which I read in the sixth grade.(less)
Phil Yes, Doc, I have. It's wonderful! Have you read it?…moreYes, Doc, I have. It's wonderful! Have you read it?(less)

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Average rating 4.17  · 
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Ironically, though Lewis considered this to be his best work, it is not very well known. Even among those who label themselves as Lewis fans, the work is not often read. Few people even know that it exists. Among the few, I would guess that there are a significant number feigning ignorance so as not to delve into the pages. Perhaps it is because the book is so often seen as a philosophical/theological work, something scholarly and dense and difficult to read. The somewhat colorless covers that t ...more
Cindy Rollins
2020 Update: Just undone. I read this for the first time when I was 18, I think. In many ways, in the last 40 years I have lived it. Tonight I miss my Psyche, Emily.

I have read this book over and over again. Perhaps it is the book I have reread more than any other.
I used to read it because I didn't get it and felt I should. Now I love it.
Listening, this time, to Nadia May, I really did become Orual, so full of self-deception, or perhaps I should
say that I recognized myself in her more clearly
Aug 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
One of the lesser known of Lewis' fiction works, this is a masterful retelling of the mythological story of Cupid and Psyche that paints a vivid picture of how selfish humanly love is, and to what extent we will go to protect it. The narrative serves to humble the reader as the heroine of the novel transforms from the pitiable victim to the chief antagonist, and at the same time we realize that we are her, always pondering on the wrongs done to us and the shortcomings we experience. It's an exce ...more
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, 2017-shelf
This seems to be the right time of year to pick out a ton of books all focused on retelling old Greek myths!

Perennial favorite C. S. Lewis went out of his way to retell the story of Psyche and Cupid from the PoV of Orual, the ugly sister, and it's a very well-told tale. He admits he uses the original as a template and goes on to make a much more psychological and grounded tale than the original, and he pulls it off delightfully, full of Orual's obsessive angst, her striving to be better, her com
Douglas Wilson
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Stupendous. World class. Top drawer.

Finished an audio version of it in August of 2016. I have read this a total of three times. Once when I was young, and I didn't like it. The second time was in 2003, and I thought it was great. This time, and greater still.
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for any Lewis fan. He began the book as an unbeliever (a case against God) and finished it some 30 years later fully converted. Almost autobiographical, you get a real sense of his own spiritual awakening. It is claimed to be his personal favorite. The name comes from the scripture: "Now we see through a glass, darkly: but then face to face..shall I know even as also I am known."

Better than anything I've read, it describes the process of developing faith and finding and becoming li
K.D. Absolutely
Psychologists have long known that every person has two great longings and inward needs. The first is to be loved, and the second is to love. But when pressures and heartaches come into our lives, many give up any hope of ever finding love.

For me, the above statements summarize the message that C. S. Lewis wanted to impart in his most mature and his-favorite-among-all-of-his-works novel, Till We Have Faces. Ugly Orual loves her beautiful youngest sister Psyche that she acts as her mother and a p
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Although I count C. S. Lewis as a favorite author, and had nominally had this re-telling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche (based on the version recounted by the 2nd-century A.D. Latin author Apuleius in his Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass; Lewis summarizes that version here in an author's note at the end) on my to-read list for some time, I'd probably never have read it if it hadn't been a common read in my Fans of British Writers group here on Goodreads. Greek mythology isn't a big intere ...more
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“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?”

This book is something rare and ex
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

”You are indeed teaching me about kinds of love I did not know. It is like looking into a deep pit. I am not sure whether I like your kind better than hatred. Oh, Orual—to take my love for you, because you know it goes down to my very roots an cannot be diminished by any other newer love, and then to make of it a tool, a weapon, a thing of policy and mastery, an instrument of torture—I begin to think I never knew you. Whatever comes after, something that was between us dies here.”

Mary Victoria
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I had a rather ambivalent relationship with author C.S. Lewis prior to reading this book. On the one hand, I loved the breadth and energy of his imagination, respected his scholarship and appreciated the way he was able to entertain children – he did have the knack for writing a page-turner. On the other I balked at the far-too-blatant theological overtones in his stories, the rampant racism and abhorrence of women – to wit, the attitudes of a 1950’s Oxbridge scholar firmly entrenched in his era ...more
Apr 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
We want God to be just. By “just” we mean that we desire that God rule in our favor. But we don’t think enough what might result should God heed the council of our minds and hearts. Would we have God make us what we wish to be, or make us what God knows we are meant to be? And what of others? How would even our loved ones fair if God treated them as we thought God should? So many want their redress from God and yet curse God for the outcome.

Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis is about accusing God
Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Strangely wonderful. Totally absorbing. Quite possibly my favorite C.S. Lewis novel ever.

Some quotes that made me pause:

"The gods never send us this invitation to delight so readily or so strongly as when they are preparing some new agony. We are their bubbles; they blow us big before they prick us." pg.97

"Don't you think a dream would feel shy if it were seen walking about in the waking world?" pg. 114

"Yet it surprised me that he should have said it; for I did not yet know that if you are ugly
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
C. S. Lewis as a true storyteller will grip you tightly and don't let you go, until the last page has been eagerly and feverish devoured...
"Till we have faces" is a (fantasy) novel grounded on an very old myth, told by Lucius Apuleius ca 125 A D under the title "Metamorphoses".
I mean that it was also the last novel written by Lewis, and he had much support and encouragement by Joy Davidman, his wife, so it could be achieved and published...

It's the story of Psyche and Orual, daughters of Trom ki
Sally Linford
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of the finest pieces I have ever read.

Emily sent me this funny note:
"Your silence is deafening. You didn't like the book? Were you afraid you would hurt my feelings. You might not have enjoyed it as much as I did because you are like Psyche and I like the other one...can't remember her name."

10/08/2008 01:16AM My reply to Emily:

Haha! NOT!

I haven't commented yet, because I haven't had time to do justice to this masterpiece. I have to say, when it ended, I stared at the wall for a while say
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"Till We Have Faces" is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche with an allegorical twist. Really the myth just serves as a springboard for this excellent novel about love and faith and the life that one leads in between the extremes of both. This is a novel that needs to be read more than once, especially Part II of the text, in order to fully internalize what C.S. Lewis is doing in this piece.
The novel is told from the perspective of Orual the older disfigured sister of Psyche. Through her
Anna Maria
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
In the beginning I was not quite in the book and I was not enjoying it as much as I thought I would, but the more I continued reading the more I was captured by this masterpiece. It is surely a good book, many parts within its pages are worthy of discussion, it illustrates the process of developing faith and finding God. I am looking forward to reading more of Lewis’ adult books, as since I was a child my favourite books where the Narnia Chronicles and especially "The lion, the witch and the war ...more
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
"how extremely unfair that the greatest female led fantasy novel of all time was written in 1956 by CS Lewis and Joy Davidman"

- a thing I tweeted last week while wending my way in utter delight through the dazzling, dizzying complexities of TILL WE HAVE FACES, revisiting this favourite book for the first time in oh, so many years I don't even remember.

I stayed away, to be frank, because I was intimidated. I'd last read the book in my early 20s, at which point I first began to feel I was peelin
Richard Derus
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read "The Chronicles of Narnia" when a child, which I believe was a statutory requirement for American children born between 1958 and 1970. I went on to read Lewis's Martian books, eg "Perelandra", and suddenly *smack* the Jesus factor hit me and I lost my taste for Lewis. No chance of that here, since this is a retelling of the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche.

Aphrodite, for reasons of her own, gets wildly jealous of a mortal beauty, and demands of her local enforcer/priest that he sacrific
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
I listened to this and for a long time I wondered why. Then, today, I listened to the last two chapters of Part One and all of Part Two because I had to know.

Oh, before today, there were thoughts and ideas that I contemplated: ideas about friendship, honor, beauty, love, duty. But Lewis opens the reader's eyes so much more fully in Part Two that the veil, as it were, is pulled away. And when it is, it is both glorious and agonizing ... relief and conviction. "Dreadful and Beautiful. The only dre
E.B. Dawson
I had heard so much about this book that I came in with high expectations. I was not prepared for the first five chapters. The story was so different from what I expected and I was a little bit underwhelmed. But then I started noticing the sentences. A friend asked me how I was liking it and I told her, "It's made up of amazing sentences." Although I wasn't attached to the characters or the plot, I loved how C.S. Lewis was weaving in these thought-provoking questions. But then the characters beg ...more
It took me a while to get into this story, but once you get deep into it, it becomes beautiful and tragic. While the concept of love is generally considered to be a positive emotion, this re-telling of a mythological tale shows the darker, more damaging side of what passionate love can lead a person to do. It also cleverly demonstrates how one's own selfish perspective and rationalization of bad behavior can blind us to the truth of our motives and our actions. It is definitely a thought-provoki ...more
Iryna *Book and Sword*
I really have to get it together and write a proper review for this, it's in my favorites list for crying out loud! But it's been a while since I have read it, and I might have to re-read it first.
This book is magic. Mind you, not at all what I expected it to be, but still very captivating and powerful.
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Jealousy, insecurity and abuse are the toxic and combustible fuels that fire this story of a tribal royal family. Great storytelling with memorable characters who even in their failures engage the reader. I kept turning the pages compulsively until the final fifty pages [more later].

Till We Have Faces also intersected rather neatly and serendipitously with my current non-fiction read The Horse, the Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. My 19
Ellery Adams
Jun 06, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who enjoys Greek myth retellings. Talk about your fascinating family dynamics—whew! Not a page-turner by any means, but a deliberate unfolding of the backstory leading up to the union of Cupid and Psyche. Cupid is almost irrelevant in this version. The true love story in this tale occurs between the two sisters.
Melody Schwarting
Till We Have Faces makes me wish Lewis had lived to write just a few more novels. Something seems to have clicked for him here; it doesn't have the try-hard feel of the space trilogy, or the overt symbolism of the Narniad. I found Orual an arresting and unforgettable character, and the setting as rich and marvelous as Ursula K. Le Guin's Lavinia. The intertextuality of this novel is so layered, I'm sure I'll get many more thought-provoking readings from it. It makes me want to reach for The Four ...more
Ralph C. Wood says that this is his favorite Lewis book. Lewis himself said that this book and The Abolition of Man were his favorite.

Just as That Hideous Strength is the fiction version of The Abolition of Man, so Till We Have Faces is the fiction version of The Four Loves.

Are Psyche and Orual the same person?

"Till We Have Faces founded a new genre of mythic novelization."

Complaints here. More details in this podcast interview. In a nutshell, Orual seems right in her criticism and seems to be g
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-books
So, two cavaets:

1) I didn't know the original myth for most of this book so I may have missed a bit of the inside references and stuff (if there are any?). But, knowing the myth now, I think Lewis did a BEAUTIFUL job retelling it.

2) The ending kinda confused me, maybe because I was reading it really fast before I had to go to church. Definitely a novel/ending that deserves to be read slowly so that one can catch all the nuances.

With all that being said...

Sherry Elmer
This is the third time for me to read this book, and I only started it again because the Ambleside online moms were reading it. Although I loved the book, I did not feel a reread was important at this time. But, since my lovely friends were reading, why not?
On this third reading I was stopped after just the first paragraph: “I am old now and have not much to fear from the gods. I have no husband nor child, nor hardly a friend, through whom they can hurt me.”
This hurt to read. It was only the day
{August 2021 Reread}

Remains one of the single best pieces of literature I've ever read. It's not perfect (you can catch glimpses of Lewis's sexism in places); and the message is complex and thorny (I can understand why some are dissatisfied with the execution of the allegory, though I'm not myself); but it is still an extraordinarily well-written, stunningly profound novel. I can't praise it highly enough.

{March 2019 Reread}

This book reaches into the deepest part of the human soul and
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Goodreads Librari...: Please add a higher-quality cover 2 8 Jul 25, 2022 04:07PM  
The Catholic Book...: 1. The myth of Eros and Psyche 26 52 Mar 31, 2021 11:23AM  
The Catholic Book...: 11. The characters 9 24 Mar 31, 2021 04:24AM  
The Catholic Book...: 7. Allegory 3 21 Mar 31, 2021 03:47AM  
The Catholic Book...: 3. Separation 5 18 Mar 31, 2021 03:43AM  
The Catholic Book...: 8. How has this book impacted you? 4 23 Mar 31, 2021 03:32AM  
The Catholic Book...: 4. Who is Ungit 6 30 Mar 31, 2021 03:30AM  

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Clive Staples Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge

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