Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mary, called Magdalene by Margaret George

Overview: Of all the women in the Bible, perhaps no one's presence has been as constantly reinterpreted as that of Mary Magdalene. Was she a prostitute? A prophet? In Margaret George's epic historical novel, Mary, Called Magdalene (Geroge's previous subjects include Henry VIII, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Cleopatra), Mary comes alive as one of Jesus' first believers, a woman of infallible visions and a faith that earns her the title "Apostle to the Apostles." With numerous biblical and scholarly texts serving as the core of this intriguing woman's story, George recreates the world of Galilean fishermen and the oppressions of the Jewish people under Roman rule. Cast out from her family after Jesus expels the demons that have ravaged her mind, Mary follows the man from Nazareth until they receive attention from the skeptical hordes and the Roman magistrates controlling Jerusalem.

Mary, from beginning to end of this giant undertaking, is a woman who struggles to reconcile her absence from her young daughter's life with the chance to be part of something important. Through the lens of her ever-inquisitive mind, the story covers the formation of Jesus' ragtag band of disciples and the crucifixion, and ends with Mary's mission as the head of the Christian church in Ephesus, where she died at the age of 90. What makes this a compelling read is that Mary's story connects humanity with faith in a way that's possible to understand, whatever our contemporary beliefs.

My review: I didn't really get into this book until after Mary's childhood when she is 17 and about to be married. After this point it's book I couldn't put down. While the author readily admits that she had to construct a childhood based on facts from that time period the story still has a very authentic feel. Once she becomes an adult, married with a child of her own the story picks up speed. Her life is one that she lived with passion, longing and love.

This book is interesting, enlightening and inspiring. While passages contain Jesus' teachings it is in no way preachy. Rather His teachings are integral to her story and give the reader an understanding of the part that Mary played, and continues to play, in this story that is still very much with us today. While I was somewhat familiar with Mary's place in history I didn't realize the scope of her involvement with Jesus and His story. Though I remember some of His teachings from childhood Sunday school it was very intriguing to read these "bible stories" in a fictional book and from an adult point of view where the concept of time and place is better understood.

While I have other works by this author in my TBR pile, mainly historical England, and at first wanted to put this book down I'm very pleased that I finished it because I would have missed a very good book.

1 Comment:

Literary Feline said...

I have a copy of George's book on Cleopatra which someday I will be brave enough to crack open. The length is a bit of a put off, I admit. I have never read anything by the author before, but a coworker highly recommended I read her books, especially Mary, Called Magdalene. Thanks for the review!

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