Saturday, June 22, 2013

book review: The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

The basics: The premise is somewhat audacious: years after the crucifixion, Mary lives alone. She recalls the last days of her son's life, including his death. Although the disciples keep her fed and provide housing, Mary does not share their belief that her son was the Son of God.

My thoughts: The writing is beautiful and haunting. Mary is such a cultural and religious icon, and Toibin rises to the challenge to imagine Mary and her inner workings in a different way. As a character, she's incredibly dynamic: "I no longer need tears and that should be a relief, but I do not seek relief, merely solitude and some grim satisfaction which comes from the certainty that I will not say anything that is not true." Mary feels emotionally tortured. She reacts the way we would expect a grieving mother to act: she mourns the loss of her son. Yet everyone around her celebrates his death. This contrast is even more vivid when Mary recalls the day of the crucifixion itself. Toibin does not shy away from the horrors of dying in that way. It's difficult to read because Toibin, through Mary and with his own hand, emphasize the humanity of Jesus.

Favorite passage: "Oh, eternal life!" I replied. "Oh, everyone in the world!" I looked at both of them, their eyes hooded and something appearing dark in their faces. "Is that what it was for?" They caught one another's eye and for the first time I felt the enormity of their ambition and the innocence of their belief.

The verdict: Ultimately, I appreciated The Testament of Mary more in theory than in application. As I read, I was more enamored with the idea of this novella than the novella itself. In many ways, it was a fascinating read, but it wasn't a particularly satisfying one.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 96 pages
Publication date: November 13, 2012 
Source: publisher via Edelweiss

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Testament of Mary from the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

Want more? Visit Colm Toibin's website and like him on Facebook.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!