The Testament of Mary eBook » The Testament PDF/EPUB

The Testament of Mary 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 newFirst 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 doesAfter 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 proceedingsThere 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 realismToibin 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 touchMary’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 bookI 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 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—her keepers who provide her with food and shelter and visit 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 is eually harsh on her judgment of others This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile loving silent long suffering obedient worshipful mother of Christ becomes in Toibin’s searing evocation a tragic heroine with the relentless elouence of Electra or Medea or Antigone This 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 Tóibín 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 demagogueMary 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 uestion not her loyalty but the sanity of those who remain convinced Ultimately however the greatest theme to her recollections is the uestion “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 Tóibín 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 Tóibín 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 Tóibín’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 Tóibín 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 Tóibín 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 Tóibín does an even greater dimension one of a mother’s humanity and grace 35 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 occasionAt 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 freuently reminded of my unuestionable 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 BibleSpecial 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 marriedOK 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 preferenceBoth 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 Tóibín 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 mouthAnd 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 caseAs I was reading this I kept thinking ‘you know what McCandless when you review this you are going to say this is basically a Pietà if a literary one If you are not sure what that means – Google image Pietà 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 Tóibín 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 Pietà is a stunning case in pointI’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 Tóibín 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 Tóibín 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 Tóibín'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 Tóibín's writing is not one that should be dismissed as blasphemy though surely many will tryWhile 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 Tóibín 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 Tóibín 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 Tóibín before nowKudos Mr Tóibín 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 alikeLikehate the review? An ever growing collection of others appears at My grandfather was a preacherI 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 uietly sing hymns and tell me stories My grandmother would make buttermilk cornbread and he and I would talk about his lessonsMy 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 manIrish writer Colm Tóibín’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 recallMary’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 welcomeIn her final years she is attended by those who would chronicle the miracles and who look on her as related to deity The tale Tóibín 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 Tóibín’s narrativeMary 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 obliue 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 Tóibín 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 uestion the deity of Christ only describes an alternate perspectiveWritten simply but with an evocation of great emotional depth Colm Tóibín has given us a thoughtful mortal portrayal of Mary ‘’Because the world is a place of silence the sky at night when the birds have gone is a vast silent place No words will make the slightest difference to the sky at night’’A few years after the events of that nightmarish week Mary is visited by two men who wish to write about everything that happened Mary doesn’t want to talk to them or to anyone They can’t understand How could they possibly understand what it is to watch your only child dying in unthinkable agony while his tormentors are either watching idly or casting dice for His clothes nearby? How could they understand the resilience she had to unearth in order not to rush and tear the eyes of the murderers with Her bare hands? But they aren’t interested in what She thinks or how She feels they just want their opinions verified Mary starts speaking to us instead going back to the last few months before the death of Her child before the world changed forever Except She doesn’t care the son is dead Needlessly absurdly terrifyingly It is the world the people that took Him away How can a mother forgive even if she understands even if she knows? Tóibín creates a masterpiece around the thoughts and the moving characterization of one of the most beloved religious figures for millions of peopleI didn’t expect anything less from one of the greatest of our times The writing is phenomenal The descriptive passages resemble the Biblical tone of the New Testament and the dialogue has a period feeling especially when Pilate addresses the crows On a lighter note before things get unbearably heavy and dark I feel the need to add that Pilate’s interaction with the mob brought to my mind the excellent Andrew Lloyd Webber Tim Rice Rock Opera Jesus Christ Superstar ‘’Trial Before Pilate 39 Lashes’’ is one of the finest moments in the show both the music and the libretto are outstanding Mary’s words and thoughts are extremely carefully chosen and expressed and they retain a contemporary universal feeling You can ‘’hear’’ a kind of solemnity fierceness and at the same time a deep sense that everything is in vain Mary herself is fierce independent determined Full of a burning rage that turns endless sadness into wrath for the impossible injustice In my opinion sometimes she’s also in denial because She knows all fears will prove true in the end ‘’There are men shouting in the night’’The way Tóibín unfolds the story and develops events we all know extremely well is fascinating The dark foreboding hints of the horror that is to follow are everywhere and the scenery is very powerful Silence darkness incorporeal voices in the middle of the night An intense feeling of isolation surrounds Mary and Jesus even though He’s followed by a multitude of people foreshadowing that loss and torment are horrifyingly lonely experiences It is uite clear that Mary feels threatened by friends and enemies alike The writer inserts a very interesting mysterious figure called the Strangler He seems to follow them everywhere He commits no crime but he stands there as a symbol of danger and death I imagined him as a metaphor for Satan Now there are many moments when Tóibín lets the story come into its own He mixes up some of the events of the New Testament For instance the Wedding at Cana takes place before the Raising of Lazarus but unless one is a die hard purist in which case they’ll abandon the novel before they turn the third page it makes no difference at all Now the Raising of Lazarus is always a moment of reference in any production of the life of Jesus and Tóibín creates an extraordinary seuence I found his characterization of Lazarus extremely powerful and moving Lazarus is said to be the one who never smiled again due to the horrors he had witnessed during his four days in the Otherworld and Tóibín remains true to this tradition He also has Mary contemplating on the gods of the past implying that there may have been peace if the slight possibility of the coexistence of all religions had become reality If it weren’t for the humans the fanatics who use religion as a pretext for relentless violence to justify their own unbearable narrow mindedness We still see this every day Countries are governed by such people no need to name names right? ‘’He is to be crucified’’The tension is masterfully built during the final moments As we view the incidents exclusively through Mary’s eyes we sense the impending doom as she is the last to know about the arrest of Jesus At the hour of need Tóibín writes about loneliness Cowards slip away denying any aid or consolation Never trust relatives I always say They are the first to shut the door on your faceEvery talented writer is an excellent psychologist in my opinion Here he succeeds in projecting the psychology of the brainless crowd who lust for blood The violence of the mob the moment when every human being becomes ferocious than any animal Except that animals have a sense of justice The crowds have nothing They know nothing and are led blindly This has been our world’s History since the beginning of time ‘’He was the boy I had given birth to and he was defenseless now than he had been then’’The moment when Pilate presents Jesus to the mob was one of the most terrifying in the novel Tóibín doesn’t choose to make use of cheap details or gore that would contaminate the emotional weight of the scene It is the terror of an incomprehensible justice that is enough The feeling of seeing a mother watching her child beaten and humiliated walking to an unjust terrifying death forced to carry the instrument of his execution The scene of the Crucifixion is swiftly dealt with Tóibín doesn’t need to resort to shocking theatrics Blood and gore are for idiotsHow did this fail to win the Man Booker Prize in 2013 is beyond me I haven’t read The Luminaries I intend to do so soon but I am than certain that it can’t stand next to Tóibín’s talent This is a story of unbearable loss injustice and survival through a thick silence of pain and death It is a terrifying yet tender masterpiece and in my opinion his best work For it is the greatest responsibility to reimagine Mary’s most tragic moments and bring forth such an excellent result If nothing else this is the story of a woman who experienced the most severe blow a parent can accept It is not a matter of this faith or that but a story of the heart and the soul One must be made of stone to remain indifferent ‘’I can tell you now when you say that he redeemed the world I will say that it was not worth it It was not worth it’’My reviews can also be found on


About the Author: Colm Tóibín

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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