Colm Tóibín’s latest book, The Testament of Mary, is a sad and bleak novella where Mary is presented as a very human and believable mother still trying to come to terms with the death of her son some twenty years earlier.
“They are too locked into their vast and insatiable needs and too dulled by the remnants of a terror we all felt then to have noticed that I remember everything.”
Fear and suspicion under the Roman occupation pervade the atmosphere but even more striking is the lyrical exploration of the relationship between dreams and reality, between states of awareness in life and death: “Maybe that is how the dead are, they are unaware, they do not miss the world or know what happens there.”
Ultimately, it is for the reader to decide where the dream ends and belief begins.
The Testament of Mary is one of several books to explore the story of birth of Christianity from new perspectives this year. Among the best of the crop is Naomi Alderman’s The Liar’s Gospel.
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín is published by Viking. ISBN-10: 0670922099. ISBN-13: 978-0670922093