Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

Colm Toibin's The Testament of Mary is told in the voice of the mother of Jesus, living in exile in Ephesus after her son's death. Water turned into wine at the wedding at Cana, the crucifiction -- these biblical events are so familiar, and yet Mary's voice is so vivid that her telling is fresh. I was amazed and impressed.

About the raising of Lazarus from the dead:

"The talk was of nothing except power and miracles. It was as if the crowd was roaming the countryside like a swarm of locusts in search of want and affliction. But no one among them thought that anyone could raise the dead. It had occurred to no one. Most of them believed, or so I learned, that it should not even be attempted, that it would represent a mockery of the sky itself. They felt, as I felt, as I still feel, that no one should temper with the  fullness that is death. Death needs time and silence. The dead must be left alone with their new gift or their new freedom from affliction."

Mary is sad, solemn and fierce, determined to set down her own version of events. She is bitterly resigned that her words will be twisted by others for their own purposes.

The Testament of Mary is only about 100 pages long. I am curious to see if this small but mighty book will make it to the Booker shortlist.

Readalikes: The Dovekeepers (Alice Hoffman), for the evocation of daily life in ancient times in the Middle East, and The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Philip Pullman) for a more tongue-in-cheek retelling of the story.

No comments: