‘Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis – Book Review

In an attempt to simplify C.S. Lewis’s message, here is my concise summary of the book. This book is not about the jealously of the ugly sister of the pretty one. Orual loved Psyche in a rather possessive, unhealthy manner. This book is about Psyche’s inner beauty, her piety, which leads her to devote herself to the gods. Orual is outrageous at her devotion because she cannot see her husband, Cupid the god of love. She convinces Psyche to betray Cupid’s trust, an act that leads to the famous trials of Psyche.

But the book doesn’t delve much into those, as is the custom of the traditional myth. Lewis focuses on Orual. Left alone without Psyche, Orual focuses on becoming queen. She is a wise, caring, and compassionate queen who improves the lot of the people until her old age. Then, in book two, she has a vision that retells Psyche’s life and trials. Orual understands she herself was one of Psyche’s biggest hurdles because she begged Psyche to think only of herself and not of the gods. In the same manner, the people wanted Psyche to themselves, and so did the old, Greek “fox,” their childhood teacher. He told Psyche the gods are a folly and that “The god within you is the one you should obey: reason, self-discipline, and calmness, (which are the essence of a Greek soul). He, too, was trying to distract her from her devotion to the gods.

Lewis emphasizes these three kinds of love were dangerous to Psyche because they tried to keep her from uniting with the divine nature. Then the mysterious narrator says Orual *is* Psyche. By this I think Lewis means that Orual’s beautiful character as an adult and old woman makes her as beautiful as Psyche. Orual is baffled and continues to wonder what is the answer and the meaning of all this. The narrator says “God is the answer” and that’s how the book ends.

As for the title, Orual understand the gods can’t love us “’till we have faces,” by which she means until we form our own character. Psyche’s pious character is why the gods loved her from the start. Orual virtuous character at the end was the reason why she has finally turned from ugly to beautiful.

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Me before You by Jojo Moyes – Book Review

Underneath all her flashy clothes and bright smiles, Louisa Clark is scared to really live life. When she’s hired to take care of Will Traynor, a quadriplegic who depends on other for everything, no one can imagine he’s the one who’s going to end up helping her live a better life. His effect on her is the best part of the story.

SPOILER ALERT!!!
What frustrates me about this story is that Lou’s immense benevolence toward life does not effect Will. And no, I am not complaining that he didn’t change his mind at the end. Here’s the deal: as much as he claimed he loved his life prior to the accident, it didn’t seem so great to me. He was a shallow, rich guy, dating a shallow, rich gal, with not much prospect of having a deeper way of life in the future. The funny “glimpse into the future” that Louisa has about his ex girlfriend/best friend five years into their marriage – well that could have easily been Will’s future with Alicia.
It seems like he’s never given the time of day to women like Lou. But here they are now, together, in love. And yes, I do understand his frustrations about what he can’t have (as much as an AB like me can get it), but what about the spiritual side? How about a spiritual, philosophical change?Louisa offered him access to the fundamental benevolence of life the likes of which he was not able to perceive before. Sadly, her mental effect on him was nearly nonexistent. She made his last days less awful, and that’s it. So at the end, it felt like something was missing.

As for the movie, it felt hurried. My favorite part is picturing Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin as the stars in my Travel Secrets trilogy. Oh yea!

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A Poignant Characterological Study – The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Armin

So many aspects turn this novel into the enchanting treasure that it is. The reader gets to travel to the magnificent San Salvatore castle in Italy and spend a marvelous, sunny April there, amidst dozens of blooming flower varieties, and with a view to the calming, azure sea. But once there, our distinctly different four heroines only outwardly seem to relax, when in fact each of them is mindfully and relentlessly re-examining her life and character.

The Italian servants are perplexed. The four ladies do not care to engage in partying, boating, or in any other activity the previous tenants have pursued. They don’t even care to socialize with each other. Far away from rainy England, our British heroines just want to be left alone, take the amazing scenery in, and think.

But the keen Ms. Von Armin takes it a step further. The characters she invents are the no only the quintessential English ladies one would expect to find in England during the 1920s, when the book was written, but they are also typical characters to be found even today. We have the mousy and scatterbrained Mrs. Wilkins and the demure and ascetic Mrs. Arbuthnot, whose marriages are both empty and unfulfilling, their initial sparks of love has long gone out. We have the elderly Mrs. Fisher who finds value only in the persons and traditions of the past. And, finally, we have the stunningly beautiful Lady Dester, who scorns her many suitors and takes her wealth for granted.

When these four ladies are transported from the gray skies of England to the sunny ones of Italy, they each start to bloom like the many flower buds around them. Their transformation is well-worth reading about. The honesty with which each of them examine her own soul, not resting until she finds what I can only call “the benevolent starting point of youth when anything can happen and life is wonderful” is not to be missed.

Finally, Ms. Von Armin’s ties the whole novel and brings all the characters together via her idea of the basis of happiness. I’ll let you discover what that is for yourselves. As for myself, I intend to re-read this wonderful book in every April spring. It happens to be my birthday month and the rebirth it signifies for us all has always held a special place in my heart. Undoubtedly, this is a book to cherish.

A word about the 1992 movie version of the novel: It is a lovely rendition and is well worth your time, but nearly none of the value of self-examination makes it through. If anything, this sweet movie shows us the tremendous value of reading over viewing. Sure, I love relaxing with a good movie, but relaxing with a great book is something altogether different.

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The Awakening by Kate Chopin Book Review

The prose of The Awakening is beautifully written and wonderful quotes abound:
“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”

We witness Edna Pontellier’s awakening from realizing she’s more than just a wife and mother, but an independent woman with her own ideas and desires. It is sight worthy of beholding. Another quote: “I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give up my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.”

Spoiler Alert!!! As lovely as Ms. Chopin weaves her words, I felt she left the reader wanting. I loved witnessing Edna’s growth, but I didn’t love her. Edna’s fatalism, which, granted, is the result of the period she lived in, is uninspiring to the modern reader. She was able to give up on all the mesmerizing things she now felt and not fight for them. She accepts her fate and swims to her death and I didn’t shed a tear.

Edna-Pontellier

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – My Review

To judge this book only in comparison to Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility is unjust to Jane Austen. In Mansfield Park, Austen creates an extremely timid, shy, but highly moral character, then places her in a situation in which she must make a choice: either stick to her principles or face social pressure and denunciation. I found witnessing Fanny’s development and the novel’s outcome to be a rare treat.

(Fanny Price’s image is by Flominowa)

Mansfield Park- Fanny Price by Flominowa

My Review of Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is a wonderfully spirited and principled girl and woman. She never takes the easy or tempting path while disregarding the context of a situation. And when she’s offered a choice, at the end of the book, between her personal happiness and devoting herself to God, she chooses a way consistent with her character, leading to a satisfactory ending.

On the down side, this choice between happiness and God wasn’t present throughout the whole book, and I was surprised when it surfaced in the third part. Also, Bronte should have edited more ruthlessly. I find her extremely verbose, and I usually enjoy detailed descriptions.

If love this book and I highly recommend it, especially to adolescents.

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Review of Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

My studies of European history this year have lead me to update my review of Michelle Moran’s book. Here’s my full review:

Filled with historical details, some lovely (a lot of fashion info), some so gruesome I had to skip forward, Michelle Moran paints a picture of the strong willed, independent Mary, who later becomes Madame Tussaud. I felt the history angle was much stronger then the characterization. The reason I gave it 3 stars instead of 2 is because of the undeniable fact that I now know so much more about the French Revolution than I learned from high school history classes and historical movies. Fiction places you in the thick of things and carves indelible images into your memory. Unfortunately, most of the memories of this book will be really horrible and disgusting.

Update:
I am now studying European history, and the more I study about the French Revolution, the angrier I get at Michelle Moran. She depicts the royal family as ignorant of the awful life conditions of the third estate – those who have no title nor belong to the clergy. After generations of “taxation in advance” – a scheme started by Louis XIV – the people have been driven to poverty and starvation. The picture Ms. Moran paints of current kind Louis XVI is of a monarch who was not aware of his people’s deplorable conditions, even though everyone else knew, including his charitable sister who helped the poor. Supposedly, no one dared to tell him nor Mary Antoinette the truth. I think it impossible for live in a palace made of gold and never ever see the truth when one ventures outside (even with a closed carriage, etc.). And if the king was really so obtuse, then he should have been portrayed as an idiot, nor a poor victim. And he must have been stupid to let himself be caught and beheaded.
OK – rant over. I’m sure Michelle would be happy to know her book is “in my head.”

Madam Tussaud

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer

The moment it was over, I wanted to read it again – and that doesn’t happen often!

Georgette Heyer accidentally created a Sub-Genre (the Regency Romance) when she wrote this book , which is why I had to read it. What a fun, witty, and comical adventure! The hero was brilliant and sophisticated; the heroine resourceful and naive. As each of them tires of their respective families’ matchmaking, they – gasp! – run away together! This impropriety is masked by Penelope’s manly attire, and let the adventure begin!

Creating a Sub-Genre by Accident: Georgette Heyer’s The Corinthian

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Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This memoir offers a window into a conflicted, depressed soul. We then accompany the writer as she regains the simple joys of life in Italy, finds inner peace through lots of praying and soul searching in India, and finds love again in Bali.

Many people deal with similar problems to some degree and could use a journey of their own to grow up and find themselves and what makes them happy. And even though Elizabeth Gilbert believes she’s found her God, which helps her be one with her inner peace, if you read the book carefully you plainly see *she* was the instrument that brought about her own happiness — which, she also admits, is our reason for being — with which I wholeheartedly agree.

In Travel Secrets, the heroine is also shaped by her travels, but with one main difference: While Elizabeth Gilbert looked to God to find herself, Rachel Moore looks inside herself for the answers.

I must add that I’m saddened to see all the super negative, sometimes hateful reviews of this book. If Elizabeth Gilbert did one thing it is to bare her soul to the world, which is a brave act that really shouldn’t merit such hatred.

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