Know Your Booker!: Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary

The_Testament_of_MarySo you think you know everything there is to know about Colm Toibin’s Booker nominated novel The Testament of Mary? Test your knowledge against our GoodReads quiz here!

What’s it about?

The Testament of Mary is described by the book’s publisher Viking as follows:

In a voice that is both tender and filled with rage, The Testament of Mary tells the story of a cataclysmic event which led to an overpowering grief. For Mary, her son has been lost to the world, and now, living in exile and in fear, she tries to piece together the memories of the events that led to her son’s brutal death. To her he was a vulnerable figure, surrounded by men who could not be trusted, living in a time of turmoil and change. As her life and her suffering begin to acquire the resonance of myth, Mary struggles to break the silence surrounding what she knows to have happened. In her effort to tell the truth in all its gnarled complexity, she slowly emerges as a figure of immense moral stature as well as a woman from history rendered now as fully human.

Who is Colm Toibin?

According to his bio on his official website:

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 returned to Ireland in 1978 he worked as a journalist for ‘In Dublin’, ‘Hibernia’ and ‘The Sunday Tribune’, becoming features editor of ‘In Dublin’ in 1981 and editor of Magill, Ireland’s current affairs magazine, in 1982. He left Magill in 1985 and travelled in Africa and South America.

What does BookerMarks think of The Testament of Mary?

Aaron (Review): “Toibin’s story is told through an aged Mary’s eyes and as much as it serves as a fictional testament to the events she witnessed in her son’s life, it’s equally a compelling piece about her own experiences as a simple woman that suddenly, and quite unwillingly, became branded as the mother of the son of God, a title she never asked for, and most certainly never felt comfortable receiving.”

Jackie (Review): “Maybe Mary was pissed that her son had to die because he wouldn’t shut his trap. Maybe she was sick of being obedient. Maybe she didn’t want a flock of nasty-ass bachelor freaks at her house every other day. Maybe Saint John did put words into her mouth and it was all a dream. Maybe she just wanted to hang out with Joseph and retire to Florida. We just don’t know.”

Aaron (Review): “The points that Toibin’s piece so masterfully drives home is that none of us are perfect, we all do our best in any given circumstance, and then live with the results of our actions, good or bad, guilt or pleasure, for the rest of our days. Yes, even the supposed mother of God has regrets, in fact hers may just be the biggest of all.”

Mike (Review): “Was Jesus the son of God, or was he a jerk who didn’t listen to his mother? His poor, poor, suffering mother.”

Karli (Review): “While I’m not particularly offended by the notion that Mary was angry enough to turn her back on religion, I feel that the novel does nothing to revolutionize the story of Mary as we know her today.  Instead, the portrayal is narrowly focused on crippling grief, disappointment, fear, and desolation.”

Penny (Review): “Toibin’s Mary is a great hater of men and has turned to pagan statues to worship.”

Michelle (Review): “It reads as if someone told Toibin to jot some stuff down and he would be a shoe in for a chance for a long list nomination.”

What do YOU think of Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary? Sound off below or visit our GoodReads forum to submit your official rating for the book which will be added to our community long list standings!

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