In conjunction with our theme of “Rewrites and Adaptations”, my Book of the Month for October is C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces. The novel is an adaptation of the tale of Cupid and Psyche from Metamorphosis. In the original, Psyche is the youngest and most beautiful daughter of a mortal King. Her beauty and kindness enamours the people who quickly begin to worship her; much to the anger of the Goddess of Love, Venus. As punishment Venus bids her son Cupid to shoot Psyche with one of his arrows making her fall in love with a monster. Instead, when he first sees her he is so taken by her beauty he drops his arrow and pricks himself, and thus, falls in love with Psyche. Terrified of his mother’s reaction, Cupid continues with her plot, taking Psyche away from her family (who are under the pretence that she will act as a sacrifice to please the Gods) and marries her himself. To protect both himself and his beloved wife he forbids her from ever looking at his face. When Psyche (who is convinced she’s married to a hideous monster) finally grows herself a backbone and looks upon her husband’s face he disappears. Psyche is distraught and goes to Venus for help. Big mistake. In C.S. Lewis’ honestly beautiful retelling, the story comes from the mouth of Psyche’s older and uglier sister Orual, who struggles with the loss of her beloved sister and begins to question the will of the Gods. Lewis uses the same approachable tone he does in the much loved Chronicles of Narnia making his adult fiction just as loveable as his childrens writing. It is often said that Lewis viewed Faces as his best work and in terms of “grown-up” reading, I am inclined to agree.
Editor 2014/15, Books Editor 2013/14