A good book with some non-graphic sexual content and deep spirituality.
The plot is built around the old Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche with Lewis putting a twist to the original plot. The tale is told from the perspective of Orual, half-sister of Psyche.
The story jumps into the present day with Orual reminiscing over her now-goddess sister, Psyche. She tells her sister's story by what she remembers and in her own words. The story takes the reader from the death of Orual's mother to Orual's own death.
Orual struggles throughout the story with morality, but as a queen she is just to the people. Her father, the king, is a cruel man with no moral laws at all.
Very pagan, coming from a Greek myth as it does. It talks throughout the book about gods and goddesses, planets like Jupiter and Mars. Venus (Aphrodite) is the goddess Ungit in the tale, while her son Cupid plays a major role.
It was hard to find Christian allegory in this story. However, Lewis often uses the pagan ideas of 'gods' and 'goddesses' as spiritual beings we know as angels and demons - something that comes out in many of his other writings. At the end of the tale, 'a great voice' is spoken of as even greater than those gods.
One major parallel between this tale and Christianity comes at the very end of the story, just before Orual's death. All her life she has been searching for an answer and fighting the will of that voice, and of the 'gods'. Now she realizes that the Voice itself, whom she only calls 'Lord', is in and of Himself the answer, and that before his face all questions such as hers die away.
The king stabs a boy to death toward the beginning of the tale and though it is quick, the scene is portrayed pretty graphically. Later it is mentioned that he threatens to drown some of his illegitimate children.
Orual learns swordfighting and practices with the captain of the guard. She stabs herself at one point, though not fatally. The priests try to sacrifice Pysche to the gods, but there is no bloodshed. Animals' blood is mentioned on the altars of Ungit.
Drug and Alcohol Content
References to wine and beer, and the nurse frequently gets drunk.
Redival, the younger sister of Orual, is said to flirt with a young man. When caught, the young man is made a eunuch. The king demands that she not lose her 'maidenhead' (virginity) before marriage. At one point, Orual notes disapprovingly that Redival was lying on the ground in front of a man, kicking her skirt up.
Fox (the tutor) tells a story from his Greek homeland about how Aphrodite, the goddess of love, fell in love with a mortal shepherd and lay with him. Nothing graphic is mentioned.
The king's illegitimate children are mentioned.
When the king marries, his bride is taken into their chamber. This also happens when Psyche becomes the bride of the god of the West Wind - she is washed and then her bridegroom comes. Nothing is described, however, and this is as far as the telling of it goes.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
'Bi***' is used by the king to describe Orual's blood sister. Also, it may be used a couple of times to describe female dogs.
The tale is an excellent retelling of Pysche and Cupid shown in a less mythical light. Lewis' way of capturing the characters, the places, and the happenings is amazing.
The reader must dig deep into the spiritual content to find anything Christian in it, and the book is best read by those who have read other works of Lewis'.
Also, the sexual content in the story makes it best read by those who already understand such things, for though they are never graphic, they are touched upon in many places.