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Till We Have Faces: A Novel of Cupid and Psyche

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Overview

“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. Disfigured and embittered, Orual loves her younger sister to a fault and suffers deeply when she is sent away to ...

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Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

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Overview

“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. Disfigured and embittered, Orual loves her younger sister to a fault and suffers deeply when she is sent away to Cupid, the God of the Mountain. Psyche is forbidden to look upon the god’s face, but is persuaded by her sister to do so; she is banished for her betrayal. Orual is left alone to grow in power but never in love, to wonder at the silence of the gods. Only at the end of her life, in visions of her lost beloved sister, will she hear an answer.

"Till We Have Faces succeeds in presenting with imaginative directness what its author has described elsewhere as ‘the divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic reality in which we all live’ . . . [It] deepens for adults that sense of wonder and strange truth which delights children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and other legends of Narnia." —New York Times

"The most significant and triumphant work that Lewis has . . . produced." —New York Herald Tribune

A novel, suggested by the tale of Cupid and Psyche, of the struggle between unselfish faith and selfish pride, of the spirit and the flesh.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156904360
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 7/28/1980
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 44,740
  • Lexile: 860L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

C. S. (Clive Staples) Lewis (1898-1963), one of the great writers of the twentieth century, also continues to be one of our most influential Christian thinkers. A Fellow and tutor at Oxford until 1954, he spent the rest of his career as Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge. He wrote more than thirty books, both popular and scholarly, inlcuding The Chronicles of Narnia series, The Screwtape Letters , The Four Loves , Mere Christianity and Surprised by Joy .

Biography

C. S. Lewis was famous both as a fiction writer and as a Christian thinker, and his biographers and critics sometimes divide his personality in two: the storyteller and the moral educator, the "dreamer" and the "mentor." Yet a large part of Lewis's appeal, for both his audiences, lay in his ability to fuse imagination with instruction. "Let the pictures tell you their own moral," he once advised writers of children's stories. "But if they don't show you any moral, don't put one in. ... The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author's mind."

Storytelling came naturally to Lewis, who spent the rainy days of his childhood in Ireland writing about an imaginary world he called Boxen. His first published novel, Out of the Silent Planet, tells the story of a journey to Mars; its hero was loosely modeled on his friend and fellow Cambridge scholar J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis enjoyed some popularity for his Space Trilogy (which continues in Perelandra and That Hideous Strength), but nothing compared to that which greeted his next imaginative journey, to an invented world of fauns, dwarfs, and talking animals -- a world now familiar to millions of readers as Narnia.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book of the seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia, began as "a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood," according to Lewis. Years after that image first formed in his mind, others bubbled up to join it, producing what Kate Jackson, writing in Salon, called "a fascinating attempt to compress an almost druidic reverence for wild nature, Arthurian romance, Germanic folklore, the courtly poetry of Renaissance England and the fantastic beasts of Greek and Norse mythology into an entirely reimagined version of what's tritely called 'the greatest story ever told.'"

The Chronicles of Narnia was for decades the world's bestselling fantasy series for children. Although it was eventually superseded by Harry Potter, the series still holds a firm place in children's literature and the culture at large. (Narnia even crops up as a motif in Jonathan Franzen's 2001 novel The Corrections). Its last volume appeared in 1955; in that same year, Lewis published a personal account of his religious conversion in Surprised by Joy. The autobiography joined his other nonfiction books, including Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce, as an exploration of faith, joy and the meaning of human existence.

Lewis's final work of fiction, Till We Have Faces, came out in 1956. Its chilly critical reception and poor early sales disappointed Lewis, but the book's reputation has slowly grown; Lionel Adey called it the "wisest and best" of Lewis's stories for adults. Lewis continued to write about Christianity, as well as literature and literary criticism, for several more years. After his death in 1963, The New Yorker opined, "If wit and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels."

Good To Know

The imposing wardrobe Lewis and his brother played in as children is now in Wheaton, Illinois, at the Wade Center of Wheaton College, which also houses the world's largest collection of Lewis-related documents, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

The 1994 movie, Shadowlands, based on the play of the same name, cast Anthony Hopkins as Lewis. It tells the story of his friendship with, and then marriage to, an American divorcee named Joy Davidman (played by Debra Winger), who died of cancer four years after their marriage. Lewis's own book about coping with that loss, A Grief Observed, was initially published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk.

Several poems, stories, and a novel fragment published after Lewis's death have come under scrutiny as possible forgeries. On one side of the controversy is Walter Hooper, a trustee of Lewis's estate and editor of most of his posthumous works; on the other is Kathryn Lindskoog, a Lewis scholar who began publicizing her suspicions in 1988. Scandal or kooky conspiracy theory? The verdict's still out among readers.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Clive Staples Lewis (real name); Clive Hamilton, N.W. Clerk, Nat Whilk; called "Jack" by his friends
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 29, 1898
    2. Place of Birth:
      Belfast, Nothern Ireland
    1. Date of Death:
      November 22, 1963
    2. Place of Death:
      Headington, England

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 86 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(55)

4 Star

(17)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 86 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 23, 2011

    Excellent read - but be warned: Apalling amount of typos

    Don't waste your money - purchase a print copy or meticulously edited ereader version. This is a very poor quality Nook version. The sheer number of mistakes/typos make this a slog-through copy.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2005

    The Mirror of Myself

    'Till We Have Faces' is a book I have read 5 times and have gleaned something new from it it every time. I am 17, and I first read it at 13. Every time I read it, I am humbled, because it is a mirror to show me my own selfishness and my self-love. This book demonstrates how we must die to ourselves before we can truly live--'If I'm really gonna live I gotta die to myself someday' (U2--Surrender). And the line at the end breaks me every time: 'I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer--before your face all questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words...' An amazing, and beautifully written work. Extremely poetic and elegant, yet humble and edifying in every way. A tapestry of everything beautiful. Highly recommended!!!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2006

    Never Read a Better Myth!

    Once more, C.S. Lewis surprises his readers with his choice of vibrant characters and compelling themes. A spin-off of the Greek myth, the focus centers on the authentic motives and intentions of its main players. The reader will go so far as to question the gods themselves. This story will leave a powerful impression, requiring readers to look deeply within themselves. How often do we confuse love with dependency, or the ability to care with the tendency to control? Lewis 'seperates the seeds' of the human heart, and invites others to do likewise. 'Till we Have Faces' is an absolutely beautiful adaptation of a story long forgotten (except on Valentine's Day--Cupid's included!)

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2002

    Tragic and Beautiful

    C.S. Lewis never fails to amaze me. In "Till We Have Faces", his ability to write from a woman's perspective is absolutely incredible. I have read this book many times and never fail to find new depths. Once you finish, you want to start all over again...definitely one of the greatest stories out there.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    See everyone, C. S. Lewis has written hits other than the Chronicles of Narnia!

    Other reviews for this book at Barnes&Noble stated that this book was a hard read, but I did not feel that was so. The ending was a little hard to slug through because it started to get a little dry, maybe that is what the other reviewers meant? At any rate, a wonderful retelling of the Psyche myth; I have never seen the events told from the point of view of one of the sisters before. The only thing that disappointed me -and that was only a very little- was the lack of romance which I have come to associate with the story of Eros and Psyche. However, as this is told from the perspective of the eldest sister, who believes her sister has gone mad, the lack of romance is fitting. The psychology of the characterrs as they struggle with the opposing forces of faith and science are artfully and realistically depicted.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2007

    Great

    I thought this was a very good book. It was a little difficult to understand in the beginning, but after the first chapter I was able to comprehend this interesting story about the classic myth of Cupid and Psyche. I have not read many of C.S. Lewis's works, but this is by far my favorite. This book is full of passages that caused me to stop and think about what is happening, something I do not usually do while reading. I would reccomend this book to people who enjoy mythology or fiction, or who like a challenge.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2007

    Thoroughly Enjoyed!

    Although a skeptic of the plot at first, my ability to put this book down decreased as the tale unfolded. 'Till We Have Faces' is a spin-off of the classic Greek myth containing Cupid and Psyche. Retelling a traditional myth by adding depth to the plot and character interaction created one fantastic read! It jumped straight to the top of my favorite book list as soon as I finished the last page. C.S. Lewis sure hit something with this book! So, if you are looking for a myth, but want something with a much more energetic and developed plot, this should be your next purchase.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2004

    An unmatched masterpiece

    I am sixteen years old, and I have read this novel numerous times. Every time I find a new lesson and hidden theme. This is a book that entices the senses with its beautiful diction. It combines fantasy with realism, C.S. Lewis truly was a brilliant philospher and writer. I have read most all of his works of art (if you will), and have found that this particular masterpiece has stimulated me to grow as an abstract thinker. I aclaim this book with the highest regard.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2001

    The Best Book I Have Ever Read

    This book had me so captivated from the very first word. I read the entire story within three hours and then read the book again later that week because it was so amazing and magical. It is by far the best book I have ever read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2000

    One of my favorites

    I picked this book up knowing nothing about it, but I loved C.S. Lewis. I was unable to put it down, it left me enchanted for many days after reading it and really changed my life in many ways. I say you must read it! Lewis is able to make us see in his stories those things which belong to another world, as if a veil is lifted from our eyes and we are able to see for the first time. After you finish reading it you'll want to re-read it again right away. This book shows us ourselves in a true light. For me it was a return to a wonder of life and beauty, what Lewis describes as moments of joy. I cannot say enough about this book... it was Lewis' favorite too. I'd suggest reading Surprised by Joy or Mere Christianity first.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2014

    Brilliant

    If you're a fan of C.S. Lewis and haven't read this yet, give it a go--you're in for a treat!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2014

    Love it

    Even though i read the paper back book. This had to be the best book ever. Its a must read for any one who loves myths.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    Four and a half stars

    Almost perfect

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Great book, MISLEADING cover

    I was sorely disappointed when I received this book and discovered that the edition I was sent was different from the cover being advertised. Not cool, B&N, not cool. Other than that, this is a great book a perhaps one of my all time favorites.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Stairs

    At the back of the prison cell room is another set of stairs. Go up them & step off on the second landing. This is where the evil guest sleeping quarters & chat rooms are. Walk down the hall to the first door.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2012

    AMAZING!

    I havent read this particular nook edition, but the book itself is one of the BEST books EVER written. One of C.S. Lewis' best!

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  • Posted May 2, 2011

    Loved this book then and now again!

    I read this first about 20 years, or so, ago. It spoke to much of life and human nature and faith then. Now, after a more grown-up me reading again, I glean more insights from it and am fascinated.

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  • Posted March 4, 2011

    One of my top favorites.

    I have this on my Nook, have an audio copy on my laptop, two hard copies for myself(one that I can highlight and write notes in) and keep an extra copy to give as a gift whenever possible. It can be a tough read the first time around. It gains a new meaning with each reread, and has more symbolic and quoteable passages than one would ever expect to find in a single novel. A beautiful piece of literary art.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A great retelling of the classical myth of Psyche

    As long as you know a little bit of Greek mythology you will find this book great. I looked up the mythology online before reading the book and that helped. It took me a while to get into the book, but I would say it is one of Lewis' best! I was also slow to catch on in seeing the parallel between Christianity and the mythological story, but a few days after reading I began to realize the implications of the book. It has increased my understanding of a Divine Love, as well as a greater appreciation for the suffering of Christ. Even without a Christian lens, I could imagine that this book is still a great read. I was suggested this book in order that I might better understand Love and I feel the reading fulfilled its purpose.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2007

    Great read, but confusing at times

    I have loved all of CS Lewis's books, and this one wasn't a disappointment. The story was great, but it got confusing at times. The plot is about a three princess's. Orual is the main princess, then comes Istra and Redival. Orual is a very ugly princess having to deal with her very beautiful sisters. She goes on journeys to help her family and people. On the way she has to deal with her father the King and her two other sisters. If you are looking for a good Greek Myth, this is the one for you.

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