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Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  59,317 ratings  ·  4,596 reviews
“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer . . . Why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

Haunted by the myth of Cupid and Psyche throughout his life, C.S. Lewis wrote this, his last, extraordinary novel, to retell their story through the gaze of Psyche’s sister, Orual. Disfigur
Paperback, 313 pages
Published 1984 by A Harvest Book (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 4.15  · 
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Jan 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Chloe by: a booklist
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
Jul 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
Shelves: sff, inklings
List of beauties:

- The epigraph: “Love is too young to know what conscience is.” The first line of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 151; Lewis makes the quotation speak of Orual’s sub-moral love, Psyche’s super-moral love, and the god’s supra-mortal love.
- Dedication: “To Joy Davidman.” TWHF was published in 1956, when Lewis was married to Joy. He says somewhere that she was so involved in his mental processes during the creation of this book “as to be almost a co-author.”
- The first sentence: “I am old no
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: Tina Matanguihan
Shelves: retelling, mythology
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
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.”

Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rachel by: Steph
“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
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who like thought-provoking, serious fiction
Recommended to Werner by: It was a common read in one of my groups
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
Apr 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians or skeptics, especially those who think the world should be totally knowable.
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
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
Mary Victoria
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sally Linford
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Truth seekers
Recommended to Sally by: Emily Funk
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
"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  ·  review of another edition
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
Richard Derus
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sherry Elmer
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of mythology; fans of C.S. Lewis
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
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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...

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.
Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. I read it as such, and not as a theological text, though there's elements of that there if that's how you choose to approach it. I chose to approach it as a story, though, as a myth retelling -- and I suspect it's perfectly possible to do both at once.

It's a beautifully told story, and one that feels real, psychologically and in terms of feeling like a real place, with real people. The basic details of the original story are that
May 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of my favorite books of all times. It changed me.

I don't know exactly what to say about it that would be informative. It is Mr. Lewis' spin on the tale of Psyche and Cupid. However, it is so much more. It touches topics like paganism, jealousy, love, bias, etc.

But, more than anything, the part of this book that sticks with me continually is Orual's plea to the gods. The deep philosophical points of this scene (and the storyline of her journey to this point) are so profound.

This work, like C
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard for me to explain what this book is even about. On its surface, it's about a king's ugly daughter, Orual, who is fiercely possessive and protective of her younger half-sister, Psyche, who is even more beautiful than Orual is ugly. They live in an ancient kingdom in the Middle East-ish sort of area, I guess? And their father is a tyrant, they have a sister who's a fool, and they have a Greek slave called The Fox for a tutor.

The Fox teaches them all sorts of fairly athiestic philosophy.
Corrine Burmeister
I don’t even have words for how much I loved this book. Beautiful and profound - just gorgeous. Lewis is just plain a genius. And I love how much more profound his writing is for a Christian...I really need to read everything he’s ever written 😆

A couple of favorite quotes from the last few pages:

“Now I knew that she was a goddess indeed. Her hands burned me (a painless burning) when they met mine. The air that came from her clothes and limbs and hair was wild and sweet; youth seemed to come into
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The Catholic Book...: 1. The myth of Eros and Psyche 26 38 Mar 31, 2021 11:23AM  
The Catholic Book...: 11. The characters 9 20 Mar 31, 2021 04:24AM  
The Catholic Book...: 7. Allegory 3 16 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 19 Mar 31, 2021 03:32AM  
The Catholic Book...: 4. Who is Ungit 6 24 Mar 31, 2021 03:30AM  
The Catholic Book...: 2. The typical meaning of the myth is human love 10 23 Mar 31, 2021 03:24AM  

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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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