2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Very Deep & Beautiful, May 16, 2000,
This review is from: Till We Have Faces (Hardcover)
[NOTE: I am reissuing my Amazon.com reviews on Amazon.co.uk. This review was originally published on Amazon.com May 16, 2000]
TILL WE HAVE FACES, is, simply put, one of the most beautiful books I have read. Its depths are enormous, its truth fantastically illustrated, and the author is completely given over to the character. If you are reading this for Lewis's style, don't. In an amazing feat of creation, Lewis used his God-given gift, and has completely come into Orual's mind. This is some of the best characterization I have ever read, with Lewis completely laying down his own style, and yielded to that or Orual. Although that may be disquieting to some, it reveals the true creative power God gave that fine Christian brother. He immerses us into her world, told from her eyes. The book is very, very deep, demanding several rereadings.
The plot of the book is a daughter is born to a king, named Psyche. He already has two other daughters, Orual and Redival. Her older sister, Orual, becomes very loving of her. Yet this love is exactly what it ought not to be: a selfish love. Psyche, seemingly a goddess in the eyes of the people, must be taken to sacrifice to the god of the grey mountains. Orual is very distraught. They take and leave her. Then Orual, along with another character named Bardia, go up to the mountain, and Orual finds Psyche, in love with the god of the mountain. Orual, being blind (although not physically), cannot see the palace. In the end, she has Psyche, who loves with selfless love, the truest and deepest and most real of all loves, look upon Eros, the god of the mountain, and Psyche is exiled because of her sin against the god. She was not to look or cast light upon him, but she did for Orual's sake.
The king is an impotent ruler, and only after Orual takes over the kingdom does Glome become something of a powerful place. All things considered, Orual really does help Glome politically and financially, and is a much better ruler than her father was. He is an abusive man, and is an evil father. He cares nothing of his daughters, and wishes for a son. He especially resents Orual for her ugliness.
The Fox is a Greek philosopher brought into educate the girls as well as help the King. Redival is least interested. He examines through the Fox the rational point of view. The Fox can never live up to his beliefs, and is constantly violating them. He is out of balance, placing to much on reason and logic and not enough on faith. He greatly influences Orual.
Redival is a selfish one, and wants what is best for her. This is exactly what not to be.
Orual: A much more complex character, and the narrator of the book. She loves with a jealous love, a love tainted by sin and ungodliness. She wishes Psyche for herself, and she cannot understand why she must go away. The book is about how she moves away from that selfish love and into the love of Jesus Christ. She is also marked by ugliness, and later starts wearing a veil to hide herself. After many years, people begin to think her wearing the veil for, ironically, great beauty, or something more mysterious, no face at all. This is representative of her spiritual life. She is ugly because of the taint of sin. Yet, because she is made in the likeness of God, the beauty that God gave her can be placed through. But as long as she remained uncured, as long as she remained [unstilled] hidden away, she could not come face to face with God. How could she when had no face. She refused to acknowledge her selfish love. For much of her life she worth both a physical and a spiritual veil. Only when old age approached, did she set down an account of the "evils" done to her by the gods in Part I. Then, in Part II, she lays down her veil, and begins to examine her life, and in the end comes to peace with God.
Psyche is the mostly Godly character, full of selfless love for others. It is she that is Orual's love. There is much to learn from Psyche.
In this book, we have what Lewis wrote in his nonfiction The Four Loves. These were written and published about the same time, and he had met Joy Davidman, who was to be his wife. Erotic love, that had so long passed him by, had suddenly and out of nowhere appeared on his doorstep. So love weight heavily on his mind during this period of his life. To have a deeper appreciation of this book, read both this and his The Four Loves, because basically he tackled the same subject in two separate genres: fiction and nonfiction. In that book, he says friends and lovers are essentially different, although bound by the same reality. Friends are friends because they have a bond, yet they are not whole concerned with the other. They are comrades, and do things side by side. Lovers are intensely interested in the others, looking at each other, not working side by side. This is illustrated in Orual's relationship with Bardia. Bardia, a prime solider, is a close friend of her, and the closest to a sexual relationship she ever obtained. Yet he is married, and so Orual cannot know erotic love as did Redival and Psyche. She is friends with him, and will not destroy his family. In this way, God is helping her to the point where she will drop the veil and let him put a face on her. Through the course of the years, she is showing more character in her relationship with Bardia than in her relationship with Psyche. She will not destroy the man she loves although she did destroy her sister's happiness. Already God was gently prodding her to a more real and honest place with him.