Till We Have Faces ~ A Book Review

I went to the library the other day with just the two big kids. I had a few minutes to pick out a book for myself, even though I've got a pile of books I'm already trying to read. But I wanted something that would keep me up at night, you know what I mean?

I found C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces. And it did it. It kept me up reading at night. (Although not like I used to do, it wasn't too late.) It also tore me apart and made me reconsider myself. It caused me to praise and fear and repent and consider and feel.

I highly recommend it. Not as a book for education per se, and not just as a book to enjoy, but maybe a book to consume? Lewis has such a way of making you think about yourself, and maybe catch a glimpse of the truth. He made me consider my mothering and loving, and being compared to the Creator God.

The story is Lewis's retelling of the Greek myth of Psyche and Cupid. It's told from the point of view of Psyche's older sister, in the lands of the barbarians. It shows how all of our good works are like rags in comparison to Christ. But more than that too, how our love is incomplete and selfish and, even, evil in comparison.

I didn't plan to commonplace this book, but several quotes made me catch my breath.


"Though this light stood motionless, my glimpse of the face was as swift as a true flash of lightning. I could not bear it for longer. Not my eyes, only, but my heart and blood and very brain were too weak for that. A monster -- the Shadowbrute that I and all Glome had imagined -- would have subdued me less than the beauty this face wore. And I think anger (what men call anger) would have been more supportable than the passionless and measureless rejection with which it looked upon me. Though my body crouched where I could almost have touched his feet, his eyes seemed to send me from him to an endless distance. He rejected, denied, answered, and (worst of all) he knew, all I had thought, done, or been. A Greek verse says that even the gods cannot change the past. But is this true? He made it to be as if, from the beginning, I had known that Psyche's lover was a god, and as if all my doubtings, fears, guessings, debatings, questionings of Bardia, questionings of the Fox, all the rummage and business of it, had been trumped-up foolery, dust blown in my own eyes by myself."

"But I was wrong to weep and beg and try to force you by your love. Love is not a thing to be so used."

"Any fight was a free show for them; and a fight of a woman with a man better still because of an oddity--as those who can't tell one tune from another will crowd to hear the harp if a man plays it with his toes." (Goodness! This quote right here makes me pray I do our education right!)

"Die before you die. There is no chance after."

"But by the death which is wisdom I supposed he meant the death of our passions and desires and vain opinions."

"I should change my ugly soul into a fair one."

"I would set out boldly each morning to be just and calm and wise in all my thoughts and acts; but before they had finished dressing me I would find that I was back (and knew not how long I had been back) in some old rage, resentment, gnawing fantasy, or sullen bitterness. I could not hold out half an hour...I could mend my soul no more than my face." (How many mornings have we set out with the same agenda? How many mornings have we also failed? This is the hopelessness of life without Christ.)

"...the Divine Nature wounds and perhaps destroys us merely by being what it is."

"The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered."

"Are the gods just?"
"Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were? But come and see."

"And mother and wife and child and friends will all be in a league to keep a soul from being united with the Divine Nature." (May it not be, Lord!)

"And the Divine Nature can change the past. Nothing is yet in its true form."

"The earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for his sake. And he was coming. The most dreadful, the most beautiful, the only dread and only beauty there is, was coming."

"I ended my first book with the words no answer. I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away."

In other words...

Till We Have Faces. Go read it. It's transforming. 


  1. I am just reeling from all the quotes you shared! Isn't there just such depth to this book? And all of this without taking one whit away from the glory of the narrative. I come away from every reading believing that Orual was a real person and feeling as if I got to know here a bit better with that trip through the book.

    1. Yes! And now, when I'm having trouble seeing reality or my own sinfulness, I turn to those pages praying that God would reveal just a little so that I know if I'm right or wrong. (It's usually that I'm in the wrong.)

  2. Would you consider sharing a link to this post in the comments over at my place? I think it would be a great boost for those interested in an overview, and it will certainly whet readers’ appetites!

  3. I didn't realize CS Lewis wrote books for adults/ older children!

    1. He did! He also wrote a space trilogy that is excellent as well, especially for teens.

  4. This is a C.S. Lewis book that I'm not familiar with. It sounds so good, that I'm going to try to read this, too! Thanks for sharing at Together on Tuesdays :)