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July 28, 2014

Book Review - The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

Told from the point of view of Mary, mother of Jesus of Nazareth, the work takes place years after the crucifixion. She lives in hiding, with the only people aware of her identity and location being two of her son’s followers, whom she deems “misfits”. She recounts her perspective of her son’s life and death, while she fends off her “captors”, who are in the process of writing the Gospels.
There is a hint of Life of Brian (1979), as for Mary her son is not the messiah, he’s just a… well, you all know the line. He is one of many rabblerousers discontent with the current order, expressing ideas and thoughts as yet unimagined.
The language is unrelentingly modern and pessimistic. In fact, many reviewers have taken issue with the work’s depiction of Mary as a harsh, cynical, and cowardly old woman who condemns the change she witnesses in her son and runs before the moment of his death in order to save herself from a similar fate. But the actual text is far more sympathetic, more disparaging. True, this is not the sanctified Mary of the church, but nor is she a vile old crone. Her pessimism is not from hate, but sorrow.
A dirge of a lost life and a world destroying itself, the Testament of Mary is as enthralling as it is plaintive. 
Andreas.

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