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The Robe Paperback – April 7, 1999
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The sweeping pageantry of one man's quest to find truth in a world corrupted is a quest that will stay with you long after the final page has been turned. Without giving too much away, the quick synopsis would be this: The story begins with Marcellus Gallio, the son of the rich Roman Senator Marcus Lucan Gallio, being commissioned to take command of the Roman fort at Minoa (Gaza). His trusted slave and friend, Demetrius, makes the journey with him, and they find at the fort a desolate scrap of land and a group of ruthless ruffians who don't take kindly to leadership. Marcellus takes firm control at Minoa, and it is from here that he and Demetrius end up in Jerusalem during Passover. It is at this particular Passover that Jesus is tried under Pontius Pilate and crucified. The detachment from Minoa, lead by Marcellus, is ordered to execute Jesus. During the Crucifixion, the officers get drunk to avoid the harsh reality of the task they've been assigned. They start to gamble and at one point, they gamble for Christ's robe. Marcellus wins, and his acquiring the Robe sets off a chain of events that leads to his eventual search for the truth behind the man who wore it. At first, as a man who does not believe in religion or in supernatural occurrences, Marcellus is skeptical of the miracles Jesus performed. He is especially skeptical when told of the Resurrection. At every point, he is searching for logical ways to explain the miracles. His transformation from a skeptic to a believer is logical in its progression and one that is miraculous to behold. Nothing comes across as choppy or unbelievable, and the change in Marcellus's character is a slow evolution over time.
In addition, I like that Jesus is not actually portrayed as a corporeal character in the book. Everything that deals with Him is after the Crucifixion, and Marcellus must learn about Him through the Disciples and the people who knew Him. Through their conviction, Marcellus discovers the truth and the belief he has sought.
This novel is the complete experience of everything a novel is supposed to be: Excellent characterization, believable, intriguing plot and conflict, solid sense of time and place, and a climactic ending of triumphant redemption that will leave you in tears. At the end, you're almost sad to turn the last page, disappointed to leave such a world - such an experience - behind. Though only my opinion, I cannot speak highly enough for this book and for this author who has completely revolutionized my opinion of what a novel is supposed to be.
One day in March, I was completely bored to death. My Grandma, tired of seeing me mope about, told me to get interested in a good book. Having no good books to read I told my Grandma to pick one out for me. She casually told me that The Robe was a good book and told me to find it off of the shelf that held all of her books that she got from The Peoples' Book Club. It had beautiful illustrations. I sat down to read it and from the first page I was immediately hooked.
That was in the year 1997. It is the year 2000 now and ever since then I have read The Robe 3 times and am in the middle of reading it again.
It is the most enduring story of Marcellus Gallio, a wealthy Tribune and son of a senator in ancient Rome. When he is ordered to put a man he knows is not guilty to death by crucifixion, he goes insane. Marcellus is accompanied in this story by the tragic Demetrius, his slave, and Diana, the woman he loves and a niece to the Emperor. Marcellus, after being healed, goes on a quest to learn of the mysterious man he put to death. And discoves he is not dead at all.
This book takes 508 pages to unfold. But it is told with such mesmerising characters and such keen historical detail that you wish it would never end.
What follows is Marcellus' seemingly inexplicable compulsion to understand and know the man whose robe he had won. Wandering in the Holy Land, he discovers more than he ever imagined about Jesus of Nazareth and the small-but-growing community of belivers in His prophesied Kingdom. Marcellus and those around him come to understand the promises and prophesies of the crucified Christos and await his return. As history records, however, not all around him share his profound faith.
My father told me about this book after he had given me a copy of another of Douglas' famous books, The Magnificent Obsession. I was truly enthralled by the vivid descriptions and characters. The story gives a depth to early Christianity which I had never known before. The book is written in a literary style that is unusual and somewhat unfamiliar to audiences of the current day, but I found that its unrushed elegance gave every page a quiet dignity that fit perfectly with the book's subject matter. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone.
This story was made into a movie (a modest testament to its power) in 1953 and was the first movie filmed in CinemaScope.