I love books that make me cry, and I love books that make me laugh. The Loser Letters, the new book by Mary Eberstadt, made me laugh out loud on almost every page; that’s why we’re reading it next month at the Catholic Post Book Group. Go get it now so you’ll be ready. You’ll thank me, I promise.
But Till We Have Faces is one of those that make me cry.
A lesser-known novel of C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, told from the perspective of a sister of Psyche. I believe C.S. Lewis considered it his finest novel, and though our family is completely enamored of all things “Narnia,” (the books for which he is most famous these days) I have to agree.
I have read this book multiple times over the years, and I can’t recall a time it didn’t bring tears with it. I read it once as a newlywed while traveling with my husband on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. I vividly remember being on the ferry, with the water all blue and shimmery around me, and there I was, crying profusely as I read, saying over and over to my husband, “This is so beautiful.” And he, poor husband, having grown up with only brothers, learned a little more about women that day.
Lewis comes back to this theme again and again in this work; I can think of a character in The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters who are possessive in spiritually unhealthy ways. There are many other themes explored in Till We Have Faces, such as friendship, beauty, powerful women, the Greek search for truth and beauty leading inevitably to Who created them.
I’m only kidding a little bit here when I say I’m shocked (shocked!) to find that not everyone loves this novel as I do. Some years back I proposed this book as a parish book club read, and it was a big fat failure. I can’t remember one person among those faithful, lovely people, who loved it or even liked it. So clearly it’s not for everyone.
But if you do enjoy Greek mythology or are a fan of anything by C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces is a great read.