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The Testament of Mary: A Novel Paperback – February 4, 2014
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“Tóibín is at his lyrical best in The Testament of Mary, a beautiful and daring work…it takes its power from the surprises of its language, its almost shocking characterization, its austere refusal of consolation.” (Mary Gordon The New York Times Book Review)
“[An] exquisite novella…Tóibín gives a familiar story startling intimacy.” (The New Yorker)
“A heartfelt, powerful work.” (Sam Sacks The Wall Street Journal)
“Dramatic and poetic…A powerful, devastating story.” (Ron Charles The Washington Post)
“Lovely, understated and powerfully sad, The Testament of Mary finally gives the mother of Jesus a chance to speak. And, given that chance, she throws aside the blue veil of the Madonna to become wholly, gloriously human.” (Annalisa Quinn NPR)
“Mary—silent, obedient, observant—has echoed down two millennia, cementing a potent ideal in the Western imagination. Now the masterful Irish writer Colm Tóibín puts a jackhammer to the cozy, safe, Christmas-card version in The Testament of Mary.” (Karen R. Long Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“A slim, grave, exquisitely emotional book…The Testament of Mary is a spellbinding, surprisingly reverent book.” (Jeff Giles Entertainment Weekly)
“Tóibín applies a Joycean ruthlessness…Imagining himself into Mary’s interior life is his boldest jump yet.” (Hermione Lee The New York Review of Books)
“Tóibín’s intimate approach make Mary feel more credible and human…The result, The Testament of Mary, feels true.” (Claire Cameron The Millions)
“Tóibín suffuses the story with a sense of mystery and makes the reader feel (perhaps as never before) the tragedy of the crucifixion.” (Macy Halford Buzzfeed)
About the Author
Colm Tóibín is the author of seven novels, including The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; The Testament of Mary, and Nora Webster, as well as two story collections. Three times shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.
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Eventually she is told he is arrested and to be crucified. The horror of this is unbelievable to her. This could have been written in a very gory way, but it's not. Just enough to make you feel uneasy, and I certainly did. Mary and Lazarus's sister Mary watched in horror as he was nailed to the cross - how he struggled and "howled". They could do nothing to help because they were being watched and knew that once it was all over they could be taken away. So they left before he died, something that preyed on her mind for the rest of her life. Also she did not want to put the other Mary in danger.
In this novella Mary is so different to the Mary we all know. She was angry with her son, missed the joy of the small boy she gave birth to, seeing him grow into this man who caused riots and upheaval. Followers that egged him on. His sermons "put my teeth on edge". But when he was powerless she loved him even more.
Mary had "visitors" or "guards" she called them who were writing her life story down, but they got frustrated when she didn't give the answers they wanted. She did not believe her son would come again. Something that did come across was her great love for her husband Joseph.
Can't say I loved this book. I found it very depressing and disturbing. Maybe because I'm a Mum it got to me - putting myself in Mary's place. Not being able to help her son or even stay with him till "the end" broke my heart. I cried. I know it's a work of fiction, but it really got to me. I almost put the book down 2/3rds of the way through I found it so upsetting, but at the same time I had to keep reading.
I'll be honest, part of me wishes I hadn't read it.
It wasn't what I was expecting from the title or the cover illustration; there's very little 'sweetness and light' here. This is a tough read, The unusual perspective is interesting, the focus on death and doom is dark and challenging. Mercifully, it's short.
Most recent customer reviews
This book has upset many readers because it does not tally with the Gospel story and the general...Read more
Locally this was a recent play - one woman on stage.
This book is a worthy alternative.