“His father?” she asks in astonishment. He recognised none of us, barely appeared able to lift the glass of water to his lips as he was handed small pieces of soaked bread by his sisters.". And while she rejects the miracles, such as the raising of Lazarus and the water turned into wine, as well as Christ’s rising from the dead, she describes them in detail and offers no explanation. Maybe they'd never really got on. When we go back to the gospels we find an irritable, not loving, relationship. His awareness of these complications leads Toibin to make a deft strategic move at the very beginning of his book by weaving the creation of a text into the structure of his tale. Tóibín accepts without question, for example, the rather unlikely story that the temple priests were sufficiently influential among a general public who regularly rioted against them that they could force the crowd to call for Barabbas not Jesus during Pilate's version of "Judea's Got (Criminal) Talent": first prize pardon, second prize crucifixion. He prefers to allow his language to be inhabited by the ideas and experiences of others. Tóibín elegantly allows the space both for doubt and for belief. In Christianity, Mary holds a sacred place as the mother of God, and as such she is often seen as a figure of pure womanhood rather than as a person in her own right. Of these, I have so far only reviewed one (The Testament of Mary), and am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying The Luminaries. Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? (Admittedly, many of them hadn’t seen the play.) Despite a heavy reading […]. Colm Tóibín bravely takes this textual truth as his starting point for a gentle, thoughtful reimagining of Mary's own experience of her life in his new novella, The Testament of Mary. . Harping on virginity may seem saintly and ethereal, but in practice it is likely to excite unruly thoughts about how it can be lost. Toibin describes himself as a “collapsed Catholic”, and the struggles he has with faith are manifested here. All content © of the RA or its respective author. The opening of The Testament of Mary, a new play by Colm Toíbín, was met with protests by conservative Catholic groups and others offended by its iconoclastic portrayal of Mary (Fiona Shaw), the mother of Jesus. Are you sure you want to mark this comment as inappropriate? Fleeing the violence she fears, Mary sees stars as “leftover things confined to their place, their shining nothing more than a sort of pleading.” As the guests wait for Jesus’ appearance at the wedding at Cana there is “a hushed holding in of things.” The tension preceding the crucifixion is chillingly evoked: “I knew that I was facing into something ferocious and exact.”, We learn the psychological implications of events through the precise evocation of their physical manifestations: “There was a dark vacancy in the faces of some, and they wanted this vacancy filled with cruelty, with pain and with the sound of someone crying out.” “Everybody’s blood was filled with venom, a venom which came in the guise of energy, activity, shouting, laughing, roaring instructions as they paved the way for a grim procession to a hill beyond.” With a poet’s gift for imagery, Toibin describes the scene of the crucifixion: “It was like a marketplace, but more intense somehow, the act that was about to take place was going to make a profit for both seller and buyer.”. In her review of Colm Toibin’s novel “The Testament of Mary” (Nov. 11), Mary Gordon refers to “the negatives that have made Christianity a byword for tyranny, cruelty and licensed hatred.” It is sad testimony to the degree of vitriol in our current discourse that this phrase should get a pass both from Gordon’s own excellent critical faculties and from the Book Review editors.

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