Rating: 4 The Testament of Mary A Novel by Colm Toibin 2012 / 96 Pages
What did Jesus’ mum think about his son of God routine? Well, according to Colm Toibin’s Man Booker Prize nominated novella The Testament of Mary– she didn’t really think very highly of it all. What a waste of a life! And those friends of his!? Oy vey…
Rating: 3 The Marrying of Chani Kaufman A Novel by Eve Harris 2013/350 pages
So, I’ve spent the past few weeks knee-deep in the Frum (Orthodox Jewish) world. That’s basically what Eve Harris’s The Marrying of Chani Kaufman was. It took me forever to read this. I’m usually a speedy reader, and this? This I had a hard time picking up. It’s not that it was a bad book; it just lacked any excitement for me.
Harris depicted the insular and oppressive world of Orthodox Judaism in England in modern times. This could, however, be anywhere: London, Brooklyn, Jerusalem, and really, nearly any time period as well. I myself am Jewish, and found myself rather familiar with much (though not all) of the terminology – often in Yiddish form. However, I imagine if you weren’t familiar, the glossary attheback (especially in e-book form) did little to help you decipher certain things.
Rating: 5 The Testament of Mary A Novel by Colm Tóibín 2012 / 96 Pages
Full of grace
Testament /ˈtestəmənt/ noun: something that serves as a sign or evidence of a specified fact, event, or quality.
At their very worst, fictional works that rely heavily on the Bible as their source material can be negatively explosive and highly blasphemous, at their best these same works can be critically acclaimed, but these accolades can never arrive without some measure of controversy. Colm Toibin’s slim Man Booker nominated novella The Testament of Mary clearly falls under the latter designation. It’s a wonderful, surprising, and moving piece of literature, but it will most certainly upset a fair number of people who read it and then seek it interpret its contents as being something greater than a piece of fiction. When the book is raised up falsely as having some factual merit and then challenged to stand up against their personal religious or spiritual beliefs it will most certainly fail. If it didn’t, then everything that they have been taught to believe could come crumbling down around their very knees. In order for it to work properly, a belief system must be infallible, and any perceived threat to its existence must be immediately dismissed in any way possible.
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman A Novel by Eve Harris 2013 / 350 Pages
Chani Kaufman is only 19 years old, but she already has major responsibilities. She was raised in a very conservative Jewish family in London, and between her religious duties and her job as an art teacher’s assistant, poor Chani barely has time to prepare for her wedding. Chani and Baruch went on just four dates before he proposed, which is apparently typical of Jewish dating customs, and now Chani oscillates between feeling lucky and blessed and completely terrified. Mrs. Kaufman already has 7 other children to care for, so she barely has time to answer her young daughter’s questions about life and marriage. Chani attempts to gain answers from The Rebbetzin (The Rabbi’s wife), but she has just suffered a terrible miscarriage at the age of 44 and is therefore grief-stricken and preoccupied. Their religious customs prohibit Chani from speaking too openly about intimate things like sex, marriage, childbirth, and birth control, so she must do what the women before her have done – become a wife and figure it all out little by little.
The Testament of Mary A Novel by Colm Tóibín 2012 / 96 Pages
Whenever a writer gives voice to a religious figure, there is bound to be controversy, and this is certainly true for Colm Tóibín’s Man Booker Prize-nominated novella, The Testament of Mary. Told from Mary’s perspective, the story recounts Mary’s experience during the capture and crucifixion of her son, Jesus. Tóibín’s portrait of the Virgin Mother is not the typical Christian vision of a saintly and martyred woman – but of a grieving mother who is angry at the world and the heavens for the lifetime of pain and suffering she has endured.
Rating: 3.0 Philida A Novel by André Brink 2012 / 320 Pages
The Setup: The year is 1832 and the Cape is rife with rumours about the liberation of the slaves. Philida made a pact for freedom with Francois Brink, the son of her master, but he has reneged on his promise to set her free. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Philida risks her life by setting off on foot for distant Stellenbosch, in a journey that begins with the small act of saying no. (from the hardcover edition)