The Testament of Mary, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2013Colm Toibin's The Testament of Mary is the moving story of the Virgin Mary, told by a novelist famous for writing brilliantly about the family.From the author of Brooklyn, 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 events 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.Praise for The Testament of Mary:'This is a short book, but it is as dense as a diamond.

It is as tragic as a Spanish pieta, but it is completely heretical...Toibin maintains all the dignity of Mary without subscribing to the myths that have accumulated around her' Edmund White, Irish Times'Depicting the harrowing losses and evasions that can go on between mothers and sons...Toibin creates a reversed Pieta: he holds the mother in his arms' Independent 'A beautiful and daring takes its power from the surprise of its language, its almost shocking characterization' Mary Gordon, New York Times


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Review by

Europeans are divided about the attraction of American cities. Some are fascinated by the modernity of large cities, while others lament the lack of historical awareness and the cosiness of a historical city centre.The picture that emerges from Midnight in the garden of good and evil. A Savannah story puts Savannah in the same category of cities as New Orleans and San Francisco, in which Europeans who cannot be charmed by America's large sprawling metropolises.The author, John Berendt, makes quite an effort to explain how citizens of Savannah realized early in the 1960s that the preservation of the historical city centre was something worth to fight for. Not all parties involved in that effort acted out of pure altruism, and the author shows how conflicts and jarring interests in that development have led to entrenched political interests that would still be important for the story in the book.A large part of the book is spent painting up the individual characters who are either involved as primary characters in the story or on the side. The effect of these descriptions is quaint. The city centre emerges as a show-box, filled with peculiar people who are almost as quaint and old-fashioned as the historical building around them, ranging from old and fragile to the wildly exotic Chablis. The glamour of celebrity and Hollywood are sprinkled in to add to the magic.The life and career of Jim Williams, the main character are just as illustrious, and slowly Williams appears as the main focus of the story. His extravagant lifestyle, and the entourage of his house, Mercer House, filled with the exquisite antiques he deals in, set the stage for the drama to unfold. His eccentric lifestyle paves the way for readers to view his unusual relationship. Not the fact that it is a gay relationship, but the details of this somewhat peculiar relationship with Danny Hansford. While Jim Williams is described as having a relationship of a kind with Hansford, neither is specifically or exclusively described as being gay. With Williams, there seems to be a certain degree of disinterest, while Hansford is described as a more or less bisexual hustler, a victim of circumstances.The description of the murder investigation and trial are as unreal as anything, much like a farce, and all tainted by the hues of antiquity, as if it is set in the 1950s, or even further back, in the 1870s.Midnight in the garden of good and evil is based on a true murder case, but the author has transposed the story in a fairlyland setting of hyperreality or magic realism. This effect is enhanced by the voice of the gossipy omniscient narrator. The book is sometimes compared with In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, but the dreamlike quality of Midnight in the garden of good and evil has very little in common with the harsh realism of Capote's novel. In fact, the book has much more in common with another work by Berendt, namely The city of falling angels. What both books have in common is a highly personalized style in which the imagination of the author runs away with facts and conversations, transforming reality into an imagined story inside the head of the author.

Review by

A novella written from the perspective of the ageing Mary, mother of Jesus. It is a study in grief and in regret and could have been very, very good. However, I was not engaged at all by the character of Mary and, despite how short the story is, I wondered whether I could really bother to keep reading it. I did and my feelings remain mixed - such a great idea for a story, such a dull result.

Review by

Poignant, heartbreaking, unsettling, and subtle. Well done Mr. Toibin.

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