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LaurenBDavis

LAUREN B. DAVIS

Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

Unruly, mysterious gods and the human heart

Till We Have Faces - C.S. Lewis

From the back of the book:

 

"“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."

 

A complex, intriguing exploration of the struggles between sacred and profane love.  

 

The structure is interesting: Orual has written this book, she tells us, as argument against the gods, whom she finds opaque, merciless, faithless and cruel.  Or, at least, that's the first book she writes.  The second book is part of the novel, and here, Queen Orual in old age has reread her book and found it needs editing (don't we all!).  She has a series of visions in which she is taken to the gods with her complaints and demands an answer to the question at the end of Book One.  That question is:  "Why silence? Amongst shattered loves, war, and suffering, why must the gods manipulate humankind without ever a glimpse of divine intent?"  

 

In Book Two, she is able, through a series of visions, to bring forth her case, to demand an answer. She receives one. In the long-dark hall of the gods, silence is her answer, for her case will not be answered by reason but rather by the nature of God. She writes: "I ended my first book with the words no answer. I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer."

 

There are moments when Lewis as the Christian apologist gets a little heavy-handed and I felt him speaking perhaps a bit too directly through the character of The Fox, the Greek slave and tutor to the three sisters.  But it's an easily-forgiven flaw when stacked up against the intelligence of the thesis and the way Lewis guides the reader to question his/her own beliefs and relationship to the divine.  

 

There are no easy answers here and one is forced to wrestle with ones' relationship to, and experience of, Mystery.

 

Besides that, it a wonderful telling of a wonderful tale and if you'd rather not grapple with questions of faith, read it anyway.  Great story.