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The Testament of Mary

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Hardcover published by Scribner (Scribner)

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Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, Colm Tóibín's provocative, haunting, and indelible 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 equally harsh on her judgement 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 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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Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, Colm Tóibín's provocative, haunting, and indelible 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 equally harsh on her judgement 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 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.

Product Details
Hardcover (96 pages)
Published: November 13, 2012
Publisher: Scribner
Imprint: Scribner
ISBN: 9781451688382
Other books byColm Toibin
  • The Ambassadors

    The Ambassadors
    Introduction by Colm Tóibín One of the final masterpieces from one of the world’s greatest authors, Henry James’s The Ambassadors is now available for the first time in a Modern Library edition, with a new Introduction by acclaimed novelist Colm Tóibín. A keenly observed tale of a man’s awakening to life, this dark comic novel follows Lewis Lambert Strether, a middle-aged widower, on a mission to Europe to convince his fiancée’s wayward son to forsake the pleasures of Paris and return to America. Rich with fin de siècle detail, The Ambassadors brims with finely drawn character portraits, including one of the Master’s most unforgettable heroines—the beguiling Madame de Vionnet. This was the novel that Henry James himself considered his finest, and no one is better equipped to put it into literary and historical context than Colm Tóibín, whose award-winning novel The Master depicted the inner life of James in the final years of the nineteenth century.

    The Lesson of the Master

    The Lesson of the Master
    On the brink of a promising career, ambitious young author Paul Overt is thrilled when he is introduced to the celebrated novelist Henry St. George, and even more so when the older man—although now considered to be past his prime—takes him under his wing. St. George is full of wise counsel for the young writer, and following his stern warnings to cultivate solitude and independence in order to not squander his talents, Paul leaves for Europe, where he immerses himself in his work. On his return, however, he is greeted with a devastating discovery.

    Fighting France

    Fighting France
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    As nuanced in her observations of human behavior as she is in her vivid depictions of French landscape and architecture, Wharton fully exploited her unique position as consort to Walter Barry, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris, which allowed her unparalleled access to life in the trenches. Sensitive without sentimentality, and offering a valuable and extremely rare female perspective of a war dominated by the male viewpoint, this series of articles is nothing less than an inspirational testament to the strength of the human spirit at a time of the greatest adversity. 

    The Master

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    Like Michael Cunningham in The Hours, Colm Tóibín captures the extraordinary mind and heart of a great writer. Beautiful and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of a man born into one of America's first intellectual families who leaves his country in the late nineteenth century to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers. In stunningly resonant prose, Tóibín captures the loneliness and the hope of a master of psychological subtlety whose forays into intimacy inevitably failed those he tried to love. The emotional intensity of this portrait is riveting.

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