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The Testament of Mary

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  10,662 Ratings  ·  1,902 Reviews
Provocative, haunting, and indelible, Colm Tóibín’s 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
Hardcover, 81 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Scribner (first published October 1st 2012)
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Siv I wondered as well... I think it might have to do with the nearness of death. Mary has witnessed a brutal death, and of course is changed by it. She…moreI wondered as well... I think it might have to do with the nearness of death. Mary has witnessed a brutal death, and of course is changed by it. She has to come near to the stones to see that they are tombstones, all that is left behind after one dies. And we know she is nearing her own death, and so pondering the significance of the events of her life, writing a "testament" to leave something behind after she departs.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Gentle, stoical, visceral pain leaches from every page, into my fingers, till my very blood is charged with it.
The agony of wounds and guilt, yes, but the balm of forgiveness, too, I hope.

I did not think that the cursed shadow of what had happened would ever lift… It pumped darkness… It was a heaviness in me that often became a weight which I could not carry.”

The devout may find this too heretical.
Militant atheists may find this too steeped in the New Testament.
I read it as neither.
I read it a
I read The Testament of Mary before dawn on this Easter Sunday. A coincidence, but not altogether without significance. It is an Easter Sunday direct-dialed from heaven: every color in the dyed-egg basket is reflected in spring’s delicate light - from the cornflower blue sky to the coral-pink sunrise to the daffodils in scene-stealing yellow. It is a day to believe in Resurrection and rebirth. Yet, I am not a Believer in the Christian sense. That Jesus was a real man I have no doubt. That he was ...more
Mar 14, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it
My grandfather was a preacher.

I remember him as a kind man who liked to work in his garden but he was also a “fire and brimstone” orator who would deliver Jonathon Edwards like sermons. This was rural Tennessee in the mid 70s and I recall standing in the back of the church with him and stoic men in overalls and stiff jackets shaking his hand and thanking him for “the message.”

He liked to ask me what I knew about the Bible and he would quietly sing hymns and tell me stories. My grandmother would
Apr 29, 2013 Stuart rated it really liked it
OK, I'll start with the jokes. A laconic Jewish mother? Let me tell you, if they would have nailed me to a cross when I was about 30 years old, my mom would have had way more than 20K words to say about it. And this book? It's the only part of the "New Testament," with the exception of Revelation, that I've ever read. The Old Testament? I've read that backwards (Hebrew) and forwards (Yinglish), complete with footnotes. Here we get Mary, kvetchy as anything, but also ice cold sane. I'd be kvetchy ...more
Mar 21, 2015 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
This is such a lovely book. A very dear friend of mine is a bit obsessed with Tóibín, madly in love with his writing and really doesn’t think he could ever put a foot wrong. And reading this it is hard not to agree. I found myself reading large parts of this aloud, unable to resist hearing the words – I virtually finished it in one sitting, but fell asleep last night and then read what was left on the train today, a little upset I had to read it to myself. The sentences are so beautifully crafte ...more
Jan 07, 2017 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
In this short piece, Tóibín offers readers an insightful look into the life of Jesus Christ, from the perspective of his mother. The story becomes a monologue, delivered by Mary, that weaves throughout the life of her son, though she will never use his name. Mary offers memories from the evolving life of Jesus, adding editorial commentary when it suits her best. Choosing to see the disciples as a collection of vagrants and vagabonds, Mary cannot always understand why Jesus would associate with t ...more
The whole premise of this is a strange one. Our image of Mary is thickly encrusted with the dried sediment of centuries of veneration, with iconic paintings, with maestà and pietà, with Marian devotional practices and Marian beliefs and Marian dogmas. Is it really possible to crack open that carapace and expose the authentic, historical human being underneath? Let's just think about that for a moment: Mary as a mother who saw her son crucified. So. What do you think she felt?


So. There
Lynne King
This is an exquisitely written book and the prose is sublime. However, I cannot really come to terms with the fact that this is a fictionalized form of the latter part of the Son of God’s life.

Reading this book made me feel very uncomfortable and the prophecies in the text rather unnerved and disturbed me. I’m not religious, inclining more towards spiritual views, but there was a sense of déjà vu which confused me.

As for its publication, well I really don’t wish to comment on that.

This is not The Da Vinci Code.

This is a melancholic tale of the widowed Mary, sharp but resigned in her age, dictating the story of her life and her son to the evangelists who would write the gospels. They ignore her, shuffle around the furniture in her house, try to convince her that her son (who remains perpetually unnamed) is the son of God. She will have none of it.

Retellings and flirty blasphemous rewritings of biblical history are nothing new. Ernst Renan is the earliest example I can thin
Lewis Weinstein
I am not a Christian and I do not believe Jesus is the Son of God any more than all of us are somehow connected to the unknowable force of creation. Ok, having said that, The Testament of Mary is a beautifully constructed imagining of a mother’s anguish over the life choices of a son she sees as increasingly confused and pompous, pushed by the agenda of others to go further and further until he becomes a threat that must be eliminated by the powers that be. The description of her son’s crucifixi ...more
Liz Janet
May 03, 2016 Liz Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
“I do not know why it matters that I should tell the truth to myself at night, why it should matter that the truth should be spoken at least once in the world. Because the world is a place of silence, the sky at night when the birds have gone is a vast silent place. Words will make the slightest difference to the sky at night. They will not brighten it or make it less strange. And the day too has its own deep indifference to anything that is said.”

This is a view of Mary that some extremist woul
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Meryl Streep reads Mary of Nazareth

My god this is gorgeous!! If you read this book, you MUST use the audio version. It's a monologue. Streep brings Mary to life as a bitter, realistic mother. This novel was just beautiful on its tragic honesty, giving the reader brutal insight into Mary's thoughts and opinions about the "misfits" and this "son of god" business. I remember years ago reading The Master by this same author and absolutely loving it too. He may be a new go-to writer for me.
Jul 12, 2016 Trish rated it really liked it
Those of us who grew up listening to Bible stories may enjoy this chance to reimagine the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As we listen to the clear and (should I say?) bitter tones of Meryl Streep reading Tóibín’s words, we realize that not much had been said of Mary in the Bible, as though she had been an unimportant part of the life of Jesus. Or perhaps, using a modern-day sensibility, she shunned the limelight, and others sought to protect her anonymity and her right to privacy by nearl ...more
Jan 07, 2014 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
(A few spoilers appear in the following review)

Where does the religious impulse originate? Does it start at birth, between mother and child, when a bond forms instinctively between nurturer and nurtured? Or does it begin later, in a community, when people unite together and find a common, spiritual grounding? Colm Toibin’s beautiful novella, The Testament of Mary, brought these questions up for me, and I found myself wondering as I read whether we have it all wrong, whether what we typically thi
May 18, 2016 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this novella for a Man Booker book club, and I'm glad that I finally had the opportunity to read something by Colm Tóibín. Although the subject of this novella isn't something I would normally pick up, I'm very pleased that I started with this as it was a short but heartfelt read with some genuinely beautiful prose and a refreshing take on Mary herself.

Mary is a character that doesn't feature heavily within the Bible itself, so I was happy to get to know her as primarily a woman and a mot
Oct 28, 2014 Hanneke rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful little book. The language is lyrical and the story provoking. As someone who attended a religious school as a child, I immensely enjoyed reading how Mary was exasperated by the disciples of Christ, who insisted to force their version of the story of events upon the future of mankind. Mary thought them fools and misfits and had no patience with them and their misinterpretation of what happened. She just mourned for her son and regretted that he brought himself in danger in such a ...more
May 28, 2013 Teresa rated it it was ok
I was bewildered while reading this novella and was left bewildered at the end. Not in the way some books leave you with intriguing questions, but in a way that had me wondering why the author (and I am a big fan of his) made some of the choices he did.

For example, why have Mary never name the two disciples (John and the other who I thought might be Luke, but have since learned is Paul, though that would be historically inaccurate) who are bothering her while writing their accounts? Because Joh
Hannah Lockhart
In this short novella, Toibín has managed to convey the emotional weight of a 1,000 page novel. This isn't a story about Jesus, or about Christianity, or even about the followers of Jesus but about his mother, Mary, and the grief a mother feels for the loss of her son.

Every sentence is loaded with emotional heaviness:

"Memory fills my body as much as blood and bones" p.4

"I remember too much; I am like the air on a calm day as it holds itself still, letting nothing escape" p.5

Toibín's humanising
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 09, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: Booker 2013 Shortlist
In this book, Colm Toibin humanized Mary, the Mother of God.

Toibin gave voice to the aging Mary, now a widow, and is sorely missing her husband and his son. She does not believe that her son is the Son of God and the miracles that he performed were all staged. She longs to see her son back, not as a adult, but as a child. She recalls to herself the Sabbaths when they enjoyed themselves as a family. She doubts the 12 apostles whose two members are her supposedly protectors and she refers them as
Barbara M
Feb 05, 2013 Barbara M rated it it was ok
I was looking forward to reading this book. I had very much enjoyed Colm Toibin's other book "Brooklyn." However, I was disappointed in "The Testament of Mary." Colm wove together Biblical stories that we all remember with complete fiction - i.e. his own "take" on what Mary was thinking and feeling.

The "Mom" in me could relate to how difficult it would be to watch your son being tortured and to see him die. It was interesting to think about how Mary must have felt while all of this was happening
Jan Rice
Jul 14, 2014 Jan Rice rated it it was ok
I got this book for my husband as I thought he'd like it. It had good reviews, and neither of us had ever read anything by Colm Tóibín. But he couldn't get into it, so we decided to read it together. It was not pleasurable but the book was short--so we persisted.

In this book Mary, the Madonna of the New Testament, is imagined as an unsympathetic character who is defending herself but not in a convincing way--like a mother whose case is being tried in the media and who doesn't fit the image deman
Sam Quixote
The Testament of Mary is presented as a missing part of the Bible told in the first person by Mary, Jesus’ mother. Missing (or suppressed) because Colm Toibin’s Mary is a sceptic of the Christian faith who relates memories of her son that question the foundation of the other testaments that paved the way to the world’s most popular religion.

I have no dog in this fight - I’m not religious at all so I’m not saying I disliked this book because it’s blasphemous or dares to adopt the voice of the ve
Vivian Valvano
Nov 15, 2012 Vivian Valvano rated it it was amazing
I skipped all television last night to read this novella, freshly arrived on my Kindle. I read it, mesmerized, in one sitting. I rate it superb. We are not used to "hearing from" Mary, the mother of Jesus - the New Testament quotes her very little and presents her in very few scenes. Toibin lets her speak late in her life, and what she has to say will surely make Toibin persona non grata at the Vatican. She speaks as a strong, intelligent (although, of course, given time and place, not educated) ...more
Aug 17, 2013 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This is a book that is very much in dialogue with the biblical narrative of Mary, and because I'm really not familiar with the details of her story or of the Gospels, I think that some of this book's power was lost on me. Like all of Toibin's work, it's very well written, at a sentence level, but by choosing to focus on only the last days of Jesus's life, it lacks the richness and emotional depth of some of his other books. We don't really see Mary as a mother raising Jesus, except in the briefe ...more
Sep 13, 2016 George rated it really liked it
Πολύ καλογραμμένη και ενδιαφέρουσα νουβέλα, συναισθηματικά φορτισμένη και με μια ξεχωριστή ένταση, όπου η Παναγία, μητέρα του Ιησού Χριστού, εξιστορεί μέσω ενός μονολόγου όλα όσα έζησε και ένιωσε μετά τον θάνατο του γιου της. Εδώ έχουμε μια μητέρα που βλέπει τον γιο της να γίνεται ένα πρόσωπο άξιο προσοχής, που νιώθει ανίκανη να τον προστατεύσει από τους κακόβουλους, να αποτρέψει την υπερβολική έκθεσή του στον κόσμο. Και μετά, βέβαια, έρχεται η μέρα της Σταύρωσης, όπου η ίδια είναι παρούσα, αλλά ...more
Mar 03, 2014 Mmars rated it really liked it
When I learned Meryl Streep narrated this audio book I thought I couldn't go wrong, for once, in attempting to listen to an audiobook in the car. Plus, it's short. 3 cds. Then less than halfway along I encountered driving conditions that (easily) took all my attention. Twenty minutes later I had no idea where I'd left off, and it's freezing in the northland and I didn't want to figure out where I'd left off. So much for me and audio books. So I took the book out from the library.

Diane S ☔
Nov 12, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
3.5 First of course one has to suspend their belief and faith (if so inclined) and once that happens it is so incredibly easy to buy into this book. The writing is fantastic, the thoughts and feeling of Mary, the same as mother's everywhere. Looking back at when he was younger and needed her, her feelings of sadness as he left home, and lamenting the fact that he will not listen to her, not even to sane his life. Disliking his choice of friends and their influence over him .Actually quite amazin ...more
Jun 27, 2013 RK-ique rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Disappointed. The author attempted to evoke Mary, mother of Jesus, as a victim of the disciples who want to use Mary as a means to their own ends: the deification of Jesus. She resists them and apparently has begun worshipping Artemis in a Greek temple. The idea is interesting but I feel that its promise has not been fulfilled.

It is the language used for Mary's voice that puts me off. Her language is more sophisticated than an illiterate jewish Aramaic speaker of the first century. Her tone is
Razvan Zamfirescu
Inițial i-am dat 3. După ce am rumegat mai bine ce am citit, mi-am dat seama că este mai mult decât o carte bunicică.

De ce te-ar atrage o astfel de carte? Sincer, nu știu. Poate că, dacă nu eram cu Maestrul și Margareta pe rol, nu m-aș fi apropiat de Testamentul Mariei. Pur și simplu m-a atras. Și mă bucur nespus.

Maria lui Colm Toibin este o Marie pe care eu nu am mai întâlnit-o în alte proze. Maria lui Toibin nu este acea Über Frau, Preafericita, Sfânta Născătoare de Dumnezeu, sec poleită cu au

Διάβασα το βιβλίο «Η διαθήκη της Μαρίας» του Ιρλανδού Colm Tóibín τη Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα, μόλις πρωτοκυκλοφόρησε δηλαδή. Είναι ένα βιβλίο που περίμενα από τον περασμένο Νοέμβριο όταν ανακοινώθηκε η ισπανική του έκδοση, έκανα όμως υπομονή για να το διαβάσω στα ελληνικά από τις εκδόσεις Ίκαρος.

Το βιβλίο αυτό μου έκανε ιδιαίτερη εντύπωση από την πρώτη στιγμή που διάβασα το κείμενο του οπισθοφύλλου του και είμαι σίγουρος πως θα εκπλήξει πολλούς αναγνώστες. Στο πιο
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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 retur ...more
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“Dreams belong to each of us alone, just as pain does.” 25 likes
“Memory fills my body as much as blood and bones.” 9 likes
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