The Testament of Gideon Mack Paperback
The Testament of Gideon Mack is James Robertson's acclaimed novel exploring faith and belief.
For Gideon Mack, faithless minister, unfaithful husband and troubled soul, the existence of God, let alone the Devil, is no more credible than that of ghosts or fairies.
Until the day he falls into a gorge and is rescued by someone who might just be Satan himself.
Mack's testament - a compelling blend of memoir, legend, history, and, quite probably, madness - recounts one man's emotional crisis, disappearance, resurrection and death.
It also transports you into an utterly mesmerizing exploration of the very nature of belief. "Fascinating, extraordinary, strange, rich". (Sunday Telegraph). "Overwhelmingly compassionate and thought-provoking.
Demands another read". (Irvine Welsh, Guardian). "Hugely enjoyable, very funny, deeply refreshing ...its touch of devilry makes it even more of a joy". (Herald). "Fabulous ...a work of the highest literary quality". (Scotland on Sunday). "Astonishingly accomplished, utterly compelling from start to finish ...could well be the best novel published anywhere this year". (Big Issue). "James Robertson is a brilliant novelist. It's a long time since I read a novel in which the contemporary notions of faith and belief were so frankly tested". (Ali Smith). James Robertson is the author of the novels The Fanatic, Joseph Knight, The Testament of Gideon Mack, And the Land Lay Still and The Professor of Truth.
The Testament of Gideon Mack was longlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize, picked by Richard and Judy's Book Club, and shortlisted for the Saltire Book of the Year award, and And the Land Lay Still was the winner of the Saltire Book of the Year Award 2010.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 400 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 18/01/2007
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780141023359
Showing 1 - 5 of 11 reviews.
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Review by MikeFarquhar
James Robertson's The Testament of Gideon Mack is the story a dead man, a Minister of the Kirk, has left behind, telling of what happened to him after he fell into a gorge, miraculously survived for three days, met the Devil and became shunned. Robertson's two previous books were good, but a little dry in places...this is much more lively in its style.I really enjoyed this. Robertson gives you a believable protagonist in Mack; likable, but flawed, and he constructs Mack's world well before the events that form the focus of the book take place. The ending is ambiguous...did Mack really meet the Devil when he vanished into a gorge for three days and survive in miraculous fashion? Or was it mental illness? A third possibility is curious...it jamp straight out at me, with Robertson flagging it up in such a way that it is obvious to those who have the knowledge to interpret the clues he seeds, but he interestingly doesn't really give the unknowing reader the information they would need to work it out for themselves.It doesn't really matter. Robertson uses his characters and setting to reflect on some of the changes Scotland has undergone in the last century, and then takes Gideon's 'encounter' with the Devil as a means to suggest something about the nature of good and evil now, and in the future, without being heavy-handed about either. The narrative flows naturally, and works for me far better than either of Robertson's previous two books.
Review by queen_evie
You know those 'pretend reality' novels, that are written to seem as though they are real? This is one of those. In fact, a few pages into it's prologue, and I was re-checking the blurb and acclaim quotes to make sure it was a novel. The prologue introduces the publisher Patrick Walker, writing of the curious incidents that brought the transcript of Gideon Mack's 'testament' into his hands, and why he feels the need to publish it. This is followed by the full transcript of the written pages found after the proved death of the minister Gideon Mack, who disappeared in the Scottish highlands months previously. Walker explains that prior to Gideon Mack's death he had claimed to have met and spoken with the Devil - claims that stripped him of his position in the Church, and brought his closest friends to thinking he was a madman.The pages are his memoirs, from his birth up until his disappearance, and his is one very grey, repressed, pious and yet somehow interesting story. As it unfolds, in precise detail, you become increasingly curious about every aspect of the story. I began to wish I could read the memoirs of the other characters in the book, so well were they illuminated, and see their side of the story. The voice of Gideon Mack becomes quickly familiar and easy. The bulk of the story is set in the small Scottish town of Monimaskit, and there are many grey descriptions of mountains, gorges, cliffs and woods that paint that picture lush and true. It is set in the present day, although as Gideon tells the tale of his life, it obviously eventuates over almost 50 years. Alluding back to the 'pretend reality' concept, throughout his story, Gideon often comments and relates to events in the world, such as the hippie-fuelled sixties, the influence of America on the United Kingdom, Princess Diana's death, war in Iraq, etc etc - which makes the story constantly feel as though it really did happen, over these last 50 or so years. A few quotes and sections of the book are written in the "guid scots tongue" - the way scottish is spoken, and even some words from an older Scottish, like ken (know), syne (then), and aince (once). The religious fervour of the town in which Gideon grew up, and the old-fashioned attitude of the ministers in and around his eventual parish also make one think of Scotland, or super-Catholic Ireland. I am not an expert in these areas, but I do know that not every country in the world has a 'minister' looking after a 'parish' in today's day. They mystery begins to become exciting when Gideon first writes about the standing stone he finds in the woods, that wasn't there before. This is quite obviously impossible, as standing stones cannot physically just 'appear' out of thin air. This event leads him on to a series of events leading to him falling into a gorge, and washing up, ALIVE (and without much damage) three days later - with quite a story to tell. As we have had a glimpse at the effects and rumours about his story at the beginning of the novel in the prologue, it begins to be a matter of chewing through the pages in order to put the pieces together. In that sense, I think the book could be defined as a mystery/memoir style narrative. The blurb on the back advertised the transportation of the reader into "an utterly mesmerising exploration of the very nature of belief". I'm not sure there was all that much speculation about 'belief'. Surely, there was the exploration of Gideon Mack's personal belief system, but not the NATURE of all belief. There was, however, lots of introspective information about life, and day to day existence that made me think about my own life. Which I suppose is sort of the same thing.All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, very different and interesting, although slow in certain parts, and the end is a bit ambiguous (no doubt on purpose, but it is sometimes frustrating when all the loose ends don't tie up).
Review by drspkelly
As deep as a puddle. If this is Scottish fiction, Scottish fiction's in trouble...
Review by Clurb
Gideon Mack is a Scottish minister who doesn't believe in God. Which is of itself a nice narrative device for broaching the themes of faith and religion. Latterly, Mack falls off a cliff and has a conversation with the devil, and although I quite liked the vagueness of the ending, I can see how people could find the whole thing very frustrating. I liked this story a lot and it raises very interesting discussion on the nature of life, faith, and man's relationship to God, but don't go at it expecting deep spiritual revalations.
Review by ishtahar
An incredibly insightful novel on the nature of belief and faith - how far should you let it go, if at all?Gideon Mack is a minister in the Church of Scotland who has never believed in God. At the age of 43 he falls in a river and is presumed dead, until he turns up 3 days later saying he was rescued by Satan with whom he had many an interesting chat. This book is the story of Gideon's life, as written by Gideon himself immediately prior to his mysterious disappearance.Is Gideon mad or not? Or is his meeting with the devil the proof that his congregation needed of the existence of God, without whom there would be no devil? Why is it that a medieval minister of the church would be hailed for meeting with and surviving the devil whereas a 21st century one is automatically categorised as insane?My only criticism is the cover. If you bought this solely for the pretty pictures binding the words (as many people do) you would be expecting an hilarious laugh out loud pastiche of religion. And you will be sadly disappointed. I wonder how many people bought this on the strength of the cover and read about five chapters before giving up. There is so much in here left unsaid, so many paths of philosophical enquiry that are opened that it could be one of those rare novels I may consider reading again.
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