Meryl Streep reads Mary of NazarethMy god this is gorgeous If you read this book, you MUST use the audio version It s a monologue Streep brings Mary to life as a bitter, realistic mother This novel was just beautiful on its tragic honesty, giving the reader brutal insight into Mary s thoughts and opinions about the misfits and this son of god business I remember years ago reading The Master by this same author and absolutely loving it too He may be a new go to writer for me 96 audio The Testament of Mary is a book I was aware of, but had no burning desire to read When it was picked for my book club I read it, and I am glad that I did The idea for the story is great Putting aside the faith based aspect of the Christ story, what would a mother think of her son in the circumstances that surrounded the last three year of Jesus life I believe that Colm Toibin has done a good job at taking a story that is known by most, and making parts of it seem new.First off, the text is beautifully written Astoundingly so at times I would place an example here, but there are plenty in the text Read it and find some for yourself It is told in first person, as if Mary is recounting her version of events The plotting and pacing of the book are also well done It is only 81 pages long, and frankly that is one of its strengths Had it been longer I don t think the text would have the impact that it does.After hearing about the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, and witnessing the turning of water into wine for herself, Mary spends the three years of Jesus ministry in near isolation in her home and only hears snippets of the events going on with her son This device keeps the focus on her, as opposed to Jesus, and her motherly disapproval of what she hears about and her worries over the attention that her son is receiving ring true as motherly actions Her perspective as his mother adds a tension to these well known stories The wedding where Jesus turns the water into wine is nerve racking, mainly because of how Mary herself views the proceedings.There is also a good device in the invented character of Marcus, Mary s childhood friend, through whom she hears details of her son s doings Marcus makes very practical observations about the events the novel portrays Another strong element is the characterization of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus Mary is a convert, someone who believes in the message Jesus delivers Martha is practical like Mary Jesus mother and is concerned about the dangers that Jesus ministry is putting all of them in The contrast is well written, and gives the novel a sense of realism.Toibin also incorporates, in subtle manner, the inklings of the patriarchy that were to be a hallmark of early Christianity They are presented in the context of the story, and never remarked on, but they are undeniably there It is a clever touch.Mary s version of the crucifixion is heartrending I held my breath as a mother watched the murder of her son The simplicity and honesty in which her character delivers the details of this event is a very strong facet of the book.I am a Christian and I was not offended by this text I viewed it as an interesting piece of fiction It is a good novella, and boasts some of the best writing I have read in years Give it a chance, approach it on its own terms, and I don t think you will be disappointed. Audie Award Finalist For Audiobook Of The Year,Literary Fiction, And Solo Narration Female T Ib N Is At His Lyrical Best In This Beautiful And Daring Work The New York Times Book Review That Portrays Mary As A Solitary Older Woman Still Seeking To Understand The Events That Become The Narrative Of The New Testament And The Foundation Of Christianity Shortlisted For The Man Booker PrizeIn The Ancient Town Of Ephesus, Mary Lives Alone, Years After Her Son S Crucifixion She Has No Interest In Collaborating With The Authors Of The Gospel, Who Are Her Keepers She Does Not Agree That Her Son Is The Son Of God Nor That His Death Was Worth It Nor That The Group Of Misfits He Gathered Around Him, Men Who Could Not Look A Woman In The Eye, Were Holy Disciples Mary Judges Herself Ruthlessly She Did Not Stay At The Foot Of The Cross Until Her Son Died She Fled, To Save Herself , And Her Judgment Of Others Is Equally Harsh This Woman Whom We Know From Centuries Of Paintings And Scripture As The Docile, Loving, Silent, Long Suffering, Obedient, Worshipful Mother Of Christ Becomes A Tragic Heroine With The Relentless Eloquence Of Electra Or Medea Or Antigone T Ib N S Tour De Force Of Imagination And Language Is A Portrait So Vivid And Convincing That Our Image Of Mary Will Be Forever Transformed I read The Testament of Mary before dawn on this Easter Sunday A coincidence, but not altogether without significance It is an Easter Sunday direct dialed from heaven every color in the dyed egg basket is reflected in spring s delicate light from the cornflower blue sky to the coral pink sunrise to the daffodils in scene stealing yellow It is a day to believe in Resurrection and rebirth Yet, I am not a Believer in the Christian sense That Jesus was a real man I have no doubt That he was a chosen being born to a virgin and endowed with super natural powers I cannot accept In that, I share heart and mind with his mother Mary, as envisioned by Colm T ib n These 81 pages are grim and transcendent they are a mother s reckoning with herself, a full acceptance of grief and guilt Years after watching as her son was crucified on a cross in front of a jeering mob, Mary shares the experience of being the mother of a demagogue.Mary is witness to the cheerful, vulnerable child who develops into an arrogant, impassioned man She presents his miracles as she observed them, not discounting them entirely, but offering enough doubt that we question not her loyalty, but the sanity of those who remain convinced Ultimately, however, the greatest theme to her recollections is the question Was it worth it And the mother can only respond, No Mary fled to Ephesus after her son s death, in fear for her life There she finds greater peace with the ancient gods than with her own Judaism or the new faith bound to her son s life, death and the legend of his resurrection But she is haunted by two men who appear in her home to interrogate her They are her captors and her protectors, disciples of the Christ not present at his death T ib n explains in this Guardian podcast that one of the men is John, which is confusing to this reader, as John is one of the principal witnesses of the crucifixion the other, impossible in historical terms, but right in its literary context, is the officious and vaguely threatening Paul These men urge and pressure Mary to relive that horrible last day so they can record and share the gospels they are writing Mary reveals her testament as a mother hollowed by the guilt of what she witnessed but could not prevent In an interview on NPR s Fresh Air last year, the author rejected the notion that Irish writers are natural storytellers, that they are imbued with an instinctive affiinty for words T ib n stated that he writes the silence, the space between the words Nowhere in his work has this been evident than in The Testament of Mary This is not a work of religion, nor of faith or doubt this is a book about a mother a theme present in many of T ib n s works and the empty space left at the death of a child Mary never once speaks her son s name The unnamed dead represents the black, empty space T ib n explores In the same podcast, the author also discussed what it cost him emotionally to envision the crucifixion of Christ to set himself in that place of excruciating physical pain It is rendered with terrible beauty, told in the voice of a mother who feels every moment of her son s agony Mary is a symbol of peace and serenity and disturbing devotion Colm T ib n offers a brave and agonizing dimension she is rarely granted that of a tortured and lonely mother, living alone with her grief Whatever your beliefs, I hope you will allow Mary, as T ib n does, an even greater dimension one of a mother s humanity and grace. 3.5 stars rounded up for the audio version of The Testament of Mary, as narrated by Meryl Streep This is Mary s story as she tells it Her thoughts, opinions, and self doubt all laid bare in a most intimate fashion on the page There are no words wasted in the telling of this narrative, which results in a book that is very short, but incredibly tightly written Listening to this book is a very powerful experience exactly what one would expect from the wonderful Ms Streep She manages to imbue even the most mundane seeming sentences with real emotion Some parts of the book were really interesting to me, and I d LOVE to get a cuppa or maybe split a bottle of wine with the Mary of this book She s not portrayed in the typical ever peaceful and serene way we usually see her shown This Mary is not a true believer, she s not ever patient, she has a somewhat snarky side to her I do love me some snark , and she loses her temper on occasion.At the end of the day, though, this was a bit on the boring side for me I appreciated the beauty as I was listening and I m glad I did listen , but I was frequently reminded of my unquestionable status as a heathen There were some parts of the story that I m sure went way, way over my head simply because I m not familiar enough with the stories from the Bible.Special thanks to Brian, for his excellent review that put this book on my radar. OK, I ll start with the jokes A laconic Jewish mother Let me tell you, if they would have nailed me to a cross when I was about 30 years old, my mom would have had way than 20K words to say about it And this book It s the only part of the New Testament, with the exception of Revelation, that I ve ever read The Old Testament I ve read that backwards Hebrew and forwards Yinglish , complete with footnotes Here we get Mary, kvetchy as anything, but also ice cold sane I d be kvetchy too if my son were 30 years old and not married.OK, enough blasphemy The Testimony of Mary is as serious as a heart attack Colm Toibin is an apostate, but he is, in my view, a respectful one He imagines what the mother of Jesus would witness and think around the time of Jesus death It s a very plausible view except that the Mary giving testimony here is definitely not a Middle Eastern mother from 2000 years ago In this testament, Toibin takes the major leap of giving Mary modern well, 19th century attitudes and psychology This approach certainly makes Mary accessible to today s reader But it does take away from any sense of authenticity I would have preferred a book like this to feel like a true biblical text, but that is personal preference.Both the Disciples and Jesus do not come off well in this telling by Jesus grieving mother If that bothers you, don t read this book The Testimony of Mary is both thoughtful and brief It isn t an intellectual tour de force, but it is a carefully crafted story. This is such a lovely book A very dear friend of mine is a bit obsessed with T ib n, madly in love with his writing and really doesn t think he could ever put a foot wrong And reading this it is hard not to agree I found myself reading large parts of this aloud, unable to resist hearing the words I virtually finished it in one sitting, but fell asleep last night and then read what was left on the train today, a little upset I had to read it to myself The sentences are so beautifully crafted and they deserve to be spoken They sing, they fill your mouth.And this is a wonderful retelling of the Jesus myth, told from the perspective of his mother Of her watching as her son becomes something she barely recognises, surrounding himself with earnest, angry, certain men dear God, spare us from certainty How these men continue to remake her son in their image long after he has died I m sure certain Christians will have trouble with reading this book but such are the kinds of Christians who say they only read one book , but really haven t even read that very closely either It is pretty clear in the Bible that Mary wasn t always utterly convinced that her little boy was divine For the myth to work, this does basically need to be the case.As I was reading this I kept thinking, you know what, McCandless, when you review this you are going to say this is basically a Piet , if a literary one If you are not sure what that means Google image Piet And, of course, how could it be anything else surely, other than his birth, the death of Christ is Mary s main walk on piece But I can t talk about this, not without spoiling this wonderful book except, of course, what T ib n does with this is one of the things you are meant to be left thinking about in this story To me, this is a book about nature of memory, the way love and fear and terror are intimately and intricately bound together and how love changes with death, as does memory When something seems perfectly right , when it leaves an image in our minds we can barely think around, it being so poignant and sublime how can it not also be perfectly true The Piet is a stunning case in point.I m going to have to stop now it seems odd to say that one could really spoil this story, for surely, isn t this one of the most known stories in our culture, yes, Jesus dies in the end, who d have thought but what is done here, particularly with the beautiful references at the end to Artemis, the virgin huntress, need to be allowed the time T ib n takes over them, need to be allowed to work their magic This is such a short book but one that is strikingly beautiful like I said, it contains prose that tastes like honey as it spills from your lips You really should read this, it is a stunning piece of writing. In this short piece, T ib n offers readers an insightful look into the life of Jesus Christ, from the perspective of his mother The story becomes a monologue, delivered by Mary, that weaves throughout the life of her son, though she will never use his name Mary offers memories from the evolving life of Jesus, adding editorial commentary when it suits her best Choosing to see the disciples as a collection of vagrants and vagabonds, Mary cannot always understand why Jesus would associate with these fellows, which is further exacerbated by her handling after the crucifixion Perhaps of greatest interest in the piece, Mary explores the period of Jesus ministry, depicting him as high on himself and trying to flaunt his connection to God, as well as a miracle worker who, like a carnival barker, wants the attention brought towards him T ib n s presentation of Mary during the latter part of the ministry is, perhaps, the most stunning of all An interesting piece that explores Jesus Christ from the one human being who knew him best T ib n s writing is not one that should be dismissed as blasphemy, though surely many will try.While not a guilty pleasure , stories that surround biblical events hold interest for me, though not when I am left with a sense of religious and spiritual inculcation T ib n does not do that in this piece, though the reader should be well versed in some of the key events of the life of Jesus Offering a sobering look into the man s life, Mary is able to balance the highly laudatory nature of the four Gospels Jesus was a boy, a teenager, and a man like any other, which is sometimes lost on those who have such a reverence for him and the plight he suffered at the hands of the Romans I would venture to say that he was arrogant, an ass at times, and perhaps, so focussed on laying the groundwork for his ministry that those closest to him were left in the dust, both figuratively and in a literal sense T ib n does not stray from the first person narrative of Mary, but is able to introduce a number of key characters into this story, as seen through the eyes of the woman and not the Gospel writers The pace of the narrative was ideal, keeping things moving, but was not dismissive of events to save time Honest sentiment flowed freely from the piece, which kept the entire story grounded and does not leave it as carte blanche acceptance of everything Sunday School and sermons have instilled Perhaps the greatest thing of all about this piece would be that Meryl Streep narrated the audiobook version, using her stellar acting background to shade portions of the story in such a way that one could almost see Mary actually uttering these words Brilliant and has left me wondering why I have never read T ib n before now.Kudos, Mr T ib n on this short story that pushes the boundaries at every turn This is surely a piece that has created much hoopla, in pews and around water coolers alike.Like hate the review An ever growing collection of others appears at My grandfather was a preacher.I remember him as a kind man who liked to work in his garden but he was also a fire and brimstone orator who would deliver Jonathon Edwards like sermons This was rural Tennessee in the mid 70s and I recall standing in the back of the church with him and stoic men in overalls and stiff jackets shaking his hand and thanking him for the message He liked to ask me what I knew about the Bible and he would quietly sing hymns and tell me stories My grandmother would make buttermilk cornbread and he and I would talk about his lessons.My grandfather asked me once if I understood that Jesus had been a man, that he had been a child and had grown and that he had an earthly mother I think it was important for him to impart to me that God had come to us as a man.Irish writer Colm T ib n s 2012 novella The Testament of Mary imbues the story of Christ with a lasting and very real image of that humanity Told from the perspective of an aging Mary not long for this world, with little left to her but memories, many painful and difficult to recall.Mary s memories of her son, in the distant but still hurtful past, are of her deep love for her little boy who grew to be a man, whom she did not completely understand Surrounded by a group of misfits Mary s son became something different than what she had expected him to be, and surrounded by attention that she did not welcome.In her final years she is attended by those who would chronicle the miracles and who look on her as related to deity The tale T ib n tells, though, is from a strong willed woman, a mother, who lives with pain, regrets and even some bitterness Far from the beatific Mary of legend, this is a hard woman with practical concerns and recollections who stands apart from those who would worship her son, and by extension, her Her remembrance of Lazarus was an especially poignant anecdote that does much to set the tone of T ib n s narrative.Mary is also described as a Hebrew woman living in a pagan time and place, having come to live her final years in Ephesus in modern Turkey Historically accurate, Mary would have lived in a cultural crossroads with a great many influences and theological backgrounds Looking back on this, I think this was an oblique but important aspect of this work By placing the setting in this place and at this time, and all the while telling a revisionist, somewhat contrarian image of Mary, T ib n has made a statement about the complexities not just of this region but also about religion as a whole It is important to note that the author does not discount or question the deity of Christ, only describes an alternate perspective.Written simply, but with an evocation of great emotional depth, Colm T ib n has given us a thoughtful, mortal portrayal of Mary. Image source here.Gentle, stoical, visceral pain leaches from every page, into my fingers, till my very blood is charged with it The agony of wounds and guilt, yes, but the balm of forgiveness, too, I hope I did not think that the cursed shadow of what had happened would ever lift It pumped darkness It was a heaviness in me that often became a weight which I could not carry The devout may find this too heretical.Militant atheists may find this too steeped in the New Testament.I read it as neither.I read it as a mother, sharing the agonies of another mother grief and pain and guilt of a degree I hope I will never have to face.Mary, mother of Jesus, is looking back at the life and death of her beloved son.She remembers how her beautiful, thoughtful child was transformed and lost to her, lost to life.The first, innocuous loss, was at the temple, when he was twelve, staying behind in his Father s house In later years, she lost him to delusions and dodgy friends that turned him into a dangerous demagogue.Ultimately she lost him to a gruesome and humiliating death that left her vulnerable to shadowy principalities and powers.She examines his faults, questions his miracles, and agonises over what she could have done differently how she might have saved the life of the one she gave life to, how she might have saved the Saviour of mankind.Her greatest pain is that there was nothing Nothing she could have done to save him And now she has nothing but her memories Memories which hurt as much as they heal.Memories which are milked and warped by protective predators with a new religion to start She looks back for solace, to the virginal ancient goddess Artemis, even as she looks ahead, in answer to the whispered call of death.What use a mother who cannot help her child at their time of greatest need I weep for the times when I have failed my own child, and humbly seek forgiveness not from God, but from the flesh of my flesh, my beloved, precious child.I expect this novel provokes the strongest reactions in those who can tick at least one of the following A parent, especially a mother Raised with New Testament stories Lost a loved one prematurely, especially a child Burdened with guilt and what if about a situation that ended, or looks as if it will end, badly.Quotes It would not be long before all the life in me, the little left, would go, as a flame goes out on a mild day, easily, needing only the smallest hint of wind, a sudden flicker and then out, gone, as though it had never been alight Their brother grew easily towards death in the same way as a source for a river, hidden under the earth, begins flowing and carries water across a plain to the sea They would have done anything to divert the stream, make it meander on the plain and dry up under the weight of the sun his last breath, when he was fully part of the waves of the sea, an invisible aspect of their rhythm Moving as though his spirit was still full with the thunderous novelty of its own great death, like a pitcher of sweet water, filled to the brim, heavy with itself The wildness that was in the very air this great disturbance in the world made its way like creeping mist or dampness into the two or three rooms I inhabit What was to occur weighed on me At times, however, I forgot about it, I let my mind linger over anything at all only to find that what I was moving towards was waiting to spring as a frightened animal will spring And then it came slowly, insidiously It entered my consciousness, it edged its way into me as something poisonous will crawl along the ground Now that the days are shorter and the nights are cold There is a richness in the light It is as if, in becoming scarce it lets loose something intense, something that is filled with a shivering clarity And then, when it begins to fade, it seems to leave raked shadows on everything And during that hour, the hour of ambiguous light, I feel safe to slip out and breathe the dense air when colours are fading and the sky seems to be pulling them in, calling them home Update 1 January 2019I read this book and wrote the review above when I was worried about my 22 year old child It hit hard In the last few months, I ve been able to relax a great deal about that My child is happy, healthy, and beginning to thrive again working productively and enjoyably, and planning the future But that joy and relief has coincided with the shock and grief of my father unexpectedly ending his life And then today, a loved one said how cathartic they d found this book when they were in a deep depression a few years ago So I turned to this review, and now I read it with generations reversed What use a child who cannot help their parent at their time of greatest need I weep for the times when I failed my own father, and would humbly seek his forgiveness, were it not too late.
Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford in 1955 He studied at University College Dublin and lived in Barcelona between 1975 and 1978 Out of his experience in Barcelona be produced two books, the novel The South shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and winner of the Irish Times Aer Lingus First Fiction Award and Homage to Barcelona , both published in 1990 When he retur
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- The Testament of Mary
- Colm Tóibín
- 03 March 2017 Colm Tóibín