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The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin
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The Testament of Mary (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Colm Toibin

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6136815,886 (3.7)1 / 176
Member:nomadreader
Title:The Testament of Mary
Authors:Colm Toibin
Info:Scribner (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 96 pages
Collections:Your library, Read, Read in 2012
Rating:****
Tags:December 2012, Jesus, Mary

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The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (2012)

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English (64)  Swedish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
"When you say that he redeemed the world, I will say that it was not worth it.", October 9, 2014

This review is from: The Testament of Mary: A Novel (Paperback)
There are a lot of issues that those familiar with the Scriptures could throw at this book. As Mary lives out the end of her days, exiled near Ephesus, tormented with her son's terrible end, and highly dubious as to his being the Son of God, it repeatedly occurred to me : what about the Annunciation? the miracle of the Virgin Birth?
But stop for a moment. Put your arguments on one side and consider that we don't really know anything about Mary's feelings or thoughts, and read this as a work of fiction - and an immensely powerful one it is.
The atmosphere of the crucifixion is stunningly drawn - the fear of being the next one arrested by the Romans if you get too close. The description of the raising of Lazarus too is vivid, if highly debatable. And Toibin's take on the weddding at Cana: 'I went to Cana not to celebrate the joining together with much clamour of two people..but to see if I could get my son home.'
Absolutely exquisite read. ( )
  starbox | Oct 9, 2014 |
The narrator of this novel is Mary, the mother of Christ. She is at the end of her life and is being tended by two men who are unspecified but seem to be apostles. She reminisces about Jesus’ miracles and crucifixion. She seems to doubt his divinity and resurrection and feels that his followers are planning to use his death for propaganda advantages. She does not trust these men and their motives and wishes that he was not sacrificed. Her view was that the Romans, who just wanted him out of the way because he was a threat to their power, bribed the people who crucified him.

Toibin has created a fascinating new perspective on one of the most significant historical events by a character who was close to the events. Readers should consider listening to the audiobook because it is a masterful performance by Meryl Streep. She manages to express Mary’s doubts and conclusions with subtle voice inflections. This performance adds much to a fascinating novel. ( )
  ozzer | Jul 11, 2014 |
This very short novella tells a few episodes in the life of Jesus Christ from the perspective of his mother Mary. She is telling the story many years later to two devoted believers who want to get down every last detail but are often disappointed with her memories and perspectives. Mary herself is more focused on the goddess Artemis and does not relate to the fervor and beliefs of Christ's followers. As she summarizes: "if you want witnesses then I am one and I can tell you now, when you say that he redeemed the world, I will say that it was not worth it. It was not worth it.۝ ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Colm was definitely taking the Mick with this one, at just 104 pages, if he had held it sideways it would have gone missing; it was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.

Let us remind ourselves that the Man Booker prize is awarded for the best original novel in the English Language. A Novel that is; not a short story, perhaps the panel were confused by the criteria for a short list and chose it because was erm............ short. Now I know that Julian Barnes had walked away with the prize in 2011 with his 160 page [Sense of an Ending] which was both short and unoriginal; so perhaps Toibin thought that if he wrote something even shorter and based it on one of the most well known stories in the world he would be bound to win. Perhaps some authors writing today believe that their readers attention span is so short that they cannot handle more that one idea or one central character.

E M Forster back in the 1920's reminded us what the [Aspects of the Novel] were and he started with three main criteria: Story, people and plot. The novel should tell a story, there should at least be ragged ends to keep the reader interested, but all we get in The Testament of Mary is a different perspective on a well known story. Sure Toibin makes the point that Mary's part in the story was largely neglected by the chroniclers and her Testament, such as it was may well have been invented by the mythmakers, but this is hardly an original idea. Toibin does rather better with Forsters second criteria which is people. The aim of a novelist, especially an historical novelist should be to reveal the inner life of the actors in the story. One could say that the whole point of Toibin's book is to reveal the inner life of Mary; mother of Jesus and he does this by telling her story through a first person perspective. It is the life of a woman who fails to understand her son and who has to watch helplessly as he is put to death in a most cruel fashion. She sees the power that Jesus has over other people but she cannot equate this with the boy who grew up in her house and so what we have here is a mother's torment, rather than testament. Toibin has room enough for only one person in his story and so it has to be a good one. However on Forster's third criteria; plot, there is very little evidence of any such thing. Forster says the reader does not only need to know that things have happened he also needs to know why they happened and it is the novelist skill in revealing these issues, that keeps us wanting to know more, there should be some mystery. Admittedly this is more difficult in a historical novel, especially one that retells some of the most well known stories in the English language, but all that Toibin has time to tell us is that the action took place in a closed fearful society that was continually spying and spied upon and that those in Authority were able to stage manage events to their own advantage.

Cynically one might think that another good way to sell a whole load of books, retailing at £8.00 a throw, would be to create some controversy and what is better than to attack some of the most basic tenents of the catholic church. Despite what we read in the scriptures; the myth of the virgin Mary has developed down the ages and for some she is the most revered person in history. By depicting her as a grieving mother who does not for one moment believe Jesus is the son of God strikes at the heart of the catholic faith. Protests, publicity, of course there was.

Despite all that I have said above I enjoyed the reading experience, although it was all over within the hour. Toibin is a master of creating an atmosphere of time and place. He writes beautifully placing his readers in scenarios that are both sharp and keenly sensitive. There are three major scenarios here that are beautifully written; the wedding at Canna, Pilates handling of the rabble and finally the crucifixion itself. The character of Mary is beautifully achieved; a person who understands little, relying on her instincts as a woman and a mother to see her through. His use of the first person allows us to get inside the head of an ordinary mother from that era and although he strays at times by making her think like a woman from current times, this does not get in the way of the characterisation and is often necessary to explain actions that are taken.

A good book club choice for those clubs whose members have little time for reading, assuming also they have some background in the Christian religion. Me, I am still waiting for the other short stories that would have made this into a fine collection. Toibin having failed to win the Man Booker did what he should have done in the first place and re-wrote this as a play with only one actor. It would make a tremendous monologue. A three star read. ( )
6 vote baswood | Jun 9, 2014 |
I finished reading this beautifully brutal account of Jesus’ mother, Virgin Mary, in one sitting this morning. Quite not realising that it was appropriate reading for the forthcoming Easter period.

The Testament of Mary is about exactly that. It is the Virgin Mary’s account of the days leading up to, and after, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. However, his miraculous acts of turning water into wine and raising Lazarus from the dead, seem to be told with an insouciance, that it could lead us to believe that the Virgin Mary knew the exceptionality of her son’s abilities.

There is no doubt the Colm Toibin can gracefully compose a novella regarding torment and suffering; however, there is a slight inclination to religious propaganda within this contentious 104-page novella.

The slimness of the novella, does not equate to the power and density that bleeds through Toibin’s/Mary’s words. Controversially, The Testament adds a new, female dimension to the biblical accounts of Jesus’ disciples. Thus, The Testament could actually become an unexpected feminist classic.

As I reflect on this novella, I have a suspicion that it could be taken as earnest scripture. There is a slight need for me now to blow the dust of my bible and start reading the other sides to Mary’s testament. As influential and powerful as books go, I am surprised that Toibin did not win the Man Booker prize,

4.5/5



LINK :
http://abooklessordinary.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/book-review-the-testament-of-m... ( )
  nikkihall | Jun 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
Colm Tóibín's mothers don't always behave as they should; they are often unpredictable, occasionally downright troublesome, prone to gusts of passion or rage or – worse – unnatural indifference. Rarely are they uncomplicated figures of placid, nurturing devotion; but they do make for fantastically involving fiction. In his 2006 short-story collection, Mothers and Sons, Tóibín brought us relationships that were often characterised by the way they inverted traditional roles. An entrepreneurial widow plots to escape to the anonymity of the big city, clashing with her son's determination to hold fast to their small-town life; another man slinks away from a crowded pub rather than be spotted by the celebrated mother who has absented herself from his life; in "A Long Winter", a magnificent extended piece set in rural Spain, a young man is forced to keep house ineptly for his father after his alcoholic mother walks out into a snowstorm rather than be deprived of drink.....
added by marq | editThe Guardian, Alex Clark (Oct 26, 2012)
 
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For Loughlin Deegan and Denis Looby
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They appear more often now, both of them, and on every visit they seem more impatient with me and with the world.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Originally published in 2012 in Great Britain by Viking Penguin." T.p. verso
"Some of this novel was used as the basis for the play "Testament," performed at the Dublin Theatre Festival in October 2011." T.p. verso
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In a voice that is both tender and filled with rage, The Testament of Mary tells the story of a cataclysmic event which led to an overpowering grief. For Mary, her son has been lost to the world, and now, living in exile and in fear, she tries to piece together the memories of the event that led to her son's brutal death. To her he was a vulnerable figure, surrounded by men who could not be trusted, living in a time of turmoil and change.

As her life and her suffering begin to acquire the resonance of myth. Mary struggles to break the silence surrounding what she knows to have happened. In her effort to tell the truth in all its gnarled complexity, she slowly emerges as a figure of immense moral stature as well as a woman from history rendered now as fully human.
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A provocative imagining of the later years of the mother of Jesus finds her living a solitary existence in Ephesus years after her son's crucifixion and struggling with guilt, anger, and feelings that her son is not the son of God and that His sacrifice was not for a worthy cause.… (more)

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