There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot
As I was reading A Face Like Glass, those lines from J. Alfred Prufrock kept floating through my mind, especially those first two lines: “there will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” In the underground city of Caverna the inhabitants are born with blank faces. They must learn to put on faces that serve the wearer’s ends, set expressions that are learned and bought and sold, such as “World Weary, with a Hint of Sadness” or “Wry Charm” or perhaps, “Careful Disinterest.” These Faces enable the citizens of Caverna to lie and dissemble and carry on political intrigues that would make the most crooked politician dizzy with their multiple layers of trickery and subterfuge.
But the girl Neverfell is different from all of the other inhabitants of Caverna. Her guardian, Grandible the Cheesemaster, insists that she wear a mask whenever she meets with anyone else from Caverna, perhaps because Neverfell has such a hideous, ugly face? Maybe “Ugly” is the only Face she has been given? Or maybe it has something to with Neverfell’s past, a past that, before the age of seven and the endless cheese tunnels of Grandible’s massive cheese factory, she can’t remember at all?
The other piece of literature that this book reminded me of was C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair. A Face Like Glass is much more layered and complicated than Lewis’s story and Hardinge’s writing style is utterly different from Lewis’s, but the underground city and the pervasive deception and manipulation of memories and the longing for an elusive otherness aboveground are all similarly key to both books. Neverfell doesn’t remember the world above Caverna, the lands on the surface of the earth, but she does long to escape the deception and darkness of the underground world. There are other similarities between the two books that I can’t talk about without spoilers, but suffice it say that I was intrigued by the parallels.
“And the worst thing about it was that you began to feel as if you had always lived on that ship, in that darkness, and to wonder whether sun and blue skies and wind and birds had not been only a dream.” The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis
And I loved the ending of A Face Like Glass. It was perfect, made so much sense, but also unexpected. I would recommend this one for older middle schoolers and high schoolers and adults. A Face Like Glass provides a lot of food for thought and enjoyment; it’s a “True Delicacy”.
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This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.