The Testament of Mary
- Author: Colm Toibin: (1955) Irish novelist, playwright. He teaches at Columbia University, New York
- Genre: novella
- Title The Testament of Mary
- Book/Printing/Cover: 101 pages – 20 paragraph breaks
- Published: 2012
- Timeline: some years after her son’s crucifixion
- Themes: sorrow , anger
- Trivia: Meryl Streep narrates the audio-book.
- Trivia: The play version was nominated for Tony Awards for best play, light and sound.
- Trivia: This is the shortest book ever to be nominated for the Booker Prize. (101 pages!)
- Trivia: There are 25 books in the New Testament ( 92%) with no recorded words from Mary at all.
- Trivia: Man Booker Prize: The prize, which is the most prestigious literary award in the UK, ‘aims to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland,’ with the overall winner receiving a £50,000 prize. The winner will be announced on October 16th 2013.
- Marcus of Cana
- Lazarus and sisters Martha and Mary
Mary is a solitary woman years after her son’s crucifixion. This is monologue where we meet the grieving mother behind “the one who was here” (pp 9). She reveals her deep sorrow over her son’s crucifixion, the events leading up to it and those that followed.
Place: The Holy Land
- Powerful: Toibin to Lazarus “ What was it like in the caves of the souls?” (pp 94-95)
- Turning point: Mary tell us what really happened on Calvary ( pp 84 )
- Powerful: description of dusk and sunset and …what it means to Mary. ( pp 94-95)
- …the hour of ambiguous light, I feel safe to slip out and breathe the dense air when the colors are fading and the sun seems to be pulling them in, calling them home until gradually nothing stands out in the landscape.
Voice of Colm Toibin:
- “…no one should tamper with the fullness that is death. Death needs time and silence. The dead must be left alone with their new gift or their new freedom from affliction.”
- Colm Toibin has written a quiet novella with a first-person narrator’s voice . This is a fictionalized portrait of Mary. The only person who accompanied her son from crib to cross.
- Mary talks of events of the past and her own conflicted responses to them. It is a mournful internalized dialogue.
- Strong point: Through Mary’s monologue Tobin builds an intimate relationship between reader and book. The writing style is simple. Sentences are short with an easy vocabulary which tends to engage the reader quickly. Toibin uses the technique of ‘repetiton’ of words, or word phrases to emphasize a point.
- Weak point: Unfortunately Toibin uses ‘repetition’ more than 35 times. It becomes needless, irritating and boring. Toibin has decided to tackle a biblical narrative. He’s introduced some controversial “twists and turns” (no spoilers) to his story, but they were not enough to make this book soar.
- Is this one of the best books I’ve read this year? No
- Will it win the Man Booker Prize 2013 for Literature written in English by a writer from the UK Commonwealth or Zimbabwe? No.
- If it does win….I’ll eat my hat!