The Testament of Mary: Book summary and reviews of The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

The Testament of Mary

By Colm Toibin

The Testament of Mary

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Book Summary

Provocative, haunting and indelible, Colm Tóibín's portrait of Mary presents her as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity.

In 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. They are her keepers, providing her with food and shelter and visiting her regularly. 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. Tóibín's tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Poigniant...This beautiful novella turns on who or what Mary should believe about her son's life and death - and on a mother's grief." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. A stunning interpretation that is as beautiful in its presentation as it is provocative in its intention." - Booklist

"Starred Review. A novella that builds to a provocative climax, one that is as spiritually profound as its prose is plainspoken...A work suffused with mystery and wonder." - Kirkus Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Diane S.
The Testament
First of course one has to suspend their belief and faith (if so inclined) and once that happens it is so incredibly easy to buy into this book. The writing is fantastic, the thoughts and feeling of Mary, the same as mother's everywhere. Looking back at when he was younger and needed her, her feelings of sadness as he left home, and lamenting the fact that he will not listen to her, not even to sane his life. Disliking his choice of friends and their influence over him .Actually quite amazing all that this little book encompasses. The poignancy and heartbreak of his crucifixion. But it is a line, one simple line at the end of the book that made this whole book a wonder to me. Not going to repeat it because I don't want to ruin it for other readers, if it even has the same impact for them. One of the quotes on the back of this book called it audacious, and I think that is a very apt description.

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Author Information

Colm Toibin Author Biography

Photo: Bruce Weber

Colm Tóibín was born in 1955 in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland, the second youngest of five children. He graduated from University College Dublin in 1975 and promptly moved to Barcelona for three years. His experiences in Spain informed his first novel The South (1990). Tóibín returned to Ireland to pursue a masters but never matriculated. He left academia for a career in journalism and was editor of the prominent Irish news magazine Macgill from 1982 to 1985. He has taught literature and creative writing at Princeton and Stanford Universities, among others, and currently lives in Dublin.

Along with writing a number of critically-acclaimed novels, Tóibín has also worked as a critic and editor of a variety of anthologies, like The ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Colm Toibin's Website

Name Pronunciation
Colm Toibin: CULL-um Toe-BEAN

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