The Testament of Gideon Mack
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The Testament of Gideon Mack

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,883 ratings  ·  235 reviews
A critical success on both sides of the Atlantic, this darkly imaginative novel from Scottish author James Robertson takes a tantalizing trip into the spiritual by way of a haunting paranormal mystery. When Reverend Gideon Mack, a good minister despite his atheism, tumbles into a deep ravine called the Black Jaws, he is presumed dead. Three days later, however, he emerges...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published February 26th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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I bought James Robertson's The Testament of Gideon Mack in 2010, and it has been sitting on my shelf unread but not forgotten. I finally read it in January of 2013 and don't know why I waited that long. It's been longlisted for the Booker (although it didn't win or even make the shortlist) and the premise provoking immediate interest - which is why I bought it in the first place.

The novel opens with an introduction by Patrick Walker, a publisher from Edinburgh bewildered by the strange story of...more
Nov 28, 2007 emily rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: sleepy scots
man. maybe I didn't get it.

all gideon mack made me want to do was jog in the woods, have a spot of tea, resent my father, jog again, do it with my neighbor's wife, and maybe have a little more tea. this might be totally acceptable a lot of the time (well, not socially acceptable, but you know what I mean), but the jacket copy and the reviews all gave me a different impression. I was expecting faust, and I got portrait of a lady. (actually, I really like portrait of a lady. but you get the point....more
Nancy Oakes
This book is incredibly difficult to summarize but I'll give it a try. First of all let me say that I was up most of last night finishing this book and skipped my a.m. walk to read the epilogue. There's so much here that once you start reading, you can't stop. Period. It's one of those books where you find yourself compelled to keep going because you're completely sucked in. Would I recommend it? MOST Definitely!

Here's what the Penguin website has to say in summary:

"Gideon Mack is a good man and...more
James Garner
The more I thought about this book after I'd finished, the more it twisted and turned in my mind. Was it because the reliability of the narrator became more and more suspect, especially at the end? Or was it because the author laid out such a seemingly simple story that, upon review, roils a reader's ideas about what faith is, whether good works are more important than faith, or ecstatic joy, or duty, or...

The beginning of the book took a while to get going. I learned too much about the main cha...more
This book better be getting better soon; so far it reads like boring memoir. I still have hope though. I'm really holding out for when he meets the devil...

Well, I liked that devil, but aside from that, I was disappointed. I was expecting more. The book gives you a brief description of the "legend" of Gideon Mack in the beginning, but then Gideon's testament doesn't do much to really alter that legend. So it's like we already know what's going to happen, and then he explains in deeeetaaaail what...more
This novel is the fictional autobiography of Scottish minister, Reverend Gideon Mack. While rescuing the dog of a fellow minster Gideon had fallen into a local gorge known as the Black Jaws and is swept along a treacherous river disappearing underground. He is believed by all to be dead. However, three days later he is found with hardly any injuries and claims that he was rescued by the Devil himself with whom he spent three days underground. His public declaration of these events leads to him b...more
Joseph McNally
Other reviewers have summarised the plot so all I'll say is that if he never wrote anything else, this book would show how skilled a professional Robertson is. The structure - the reader knows the outcome from the start - needs to be flawless to hold interest and Robertson pulls it off superbly without using any 'fancy tricks'.

The narrative drive is maintained by numerous unresolved relationships but perhaps mostly by the question of whether Gideon Mack really met the devil or whether he has los...more
The title character in James Robertson’s novel THE TESTAMENT OF GIDEON MACK is a minister on the east coast of Scotland who sets out to chronicle his life.

We learn about his over-strict minister father and ineffectual mother and that after studying to be an English teacher, he decided to become a minister instead, despite not believing in God and having always been skeptical about both the Church and all things supernatural.

Toward the end of his life, he has a near-death experience, after which...more
This is no easy read for it requires the reader to ingest the characters, endure the process of continual character re-imaginations, and actively piece together a narrative at once weighty in its subject matter and succinct in its plot.

I could not be more impressed with a novel. It made me work hard as a reader. And there were many times that, as I read, I thought were "boring." But looking back, I see that these parts were the parts of the book that resembled lived reality the most.

At it's cor...more
Highly intelligent and clever.
A neatly woven but sometimes heavy going story of a Scottish vicar which explores the nature of faith in a novel way.
The story basically explores Christianity from an inverse perspective - weaving in the eternal questions and judgements that the modern world makes about religion. It expands on books like "Mere Chrisitanity" written by C S Lewis which raises the issues of religion, and truth and chrisitan ethics and transfers this into a fictional format.
Is Gideon...more
Lari Don
My favourite book by one of my favourite writers, The Testament of Gideon Mack feels very classical (reminiscent of The Confessions of a Justified Sinner) and very contemporary at the same time.
The main character, Gideon Mack, is a Church of Scotland minister who doesn’t believe in God. Not a minister who has lost his faith, but a minister who made a decision to have a career in the church despite not believing in God. Yet the author manages to make this seem like a reasonable decision by a rath...more
An excellent treatise on the nature of faith and rationality, where what one individual believes vehemently, another may question and regard as delusional. Gideon Mack embodies this uncertainty in the decisions made and interpretations of events experienced which he records for posterity ahead of his mysterious death. What Robertson so expertly achieves is to leave the reader with as many questions as answers as to their own interpretation of what they read. The opening of the book is narrated b...more
The Testament of Gideon Mack is the first book I have read by James Robertson, and I enjoyed it so much that I now feel eager to seek out his other novels. It's imaginative, brilliantly written, evokes places and characters vividly, and is consistently smart and witty without ever becoming pretentious. The plot concerns a faithless minister who has a near-death experience and a meeting with the devil, but it's more than just a story; as Gideon's 'testament' unravels, we are shown a portrait of o...more

Gideon Mack is a minister in the Scottish church, being the rebellious son of a domineering father, also a minister; it seems a strange choice of career, especially as he does not believe in God! It is a thought provoking and humorous story that has continued to haunt me since finishing it a few days ago. He leads a fairly lively ministerial life and raises money for the church by running in marathons. One day his life is changed for ever when out running...more
This is actually one of the most well thought out, intricately constructed novels I have read in a long time. There's a lot to digest in this narrative that reflects on human nature, faith, mental illness, the horrors of the real world (and how that can close a human being down into a world of careful retreat), people who never truly find themselves or their voice, and to top it all off a little myth, parable and urban legend.
Some readers of this book may find it a little unsatisfactory that it...more
Oct 20, 2011 Suzy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Nick, Elise, Jim, Kathy
At first I thought this book might be a 5-star book. I was not terribly let down by the end, but I should say that what struck me as uncannily insightful in the beginning got to seeming less amazing toward the end. It is an unusual and well written tale, presented as a discovered "testament" with a prologue and epilogue by a prospective publisher and his reporter, respectively. The Testament of Gideon Mack takes place in Scotland and tells the life of a boy, Gideon, born in the 50's and raised b...more
Ron Charles
Does He or doesn't He? Judging by the religion books on the bestseller list, Americans are up in arms about the existence of God: not so much a Great Awakening as a Great Arguing. It's become an article of faith that the United States is the most religious nation in the developed world, but The God Delusion, by atheist Richard Dawkins, is racking up heavenly sales. At the same time, we're fascinated by a 2nd-century Gnostic fragment that claims Judas was the best disciple and a book about two ar...more
Harsha Priolkar
What a book!! This book was longlisted for the Booker in 2006, which was eventually won by one of my least favorite books, the Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. Pity :P

I found this an intriguing read not in the least because of the subject matter, which if I were to put in one word (!), would be Faith. Religious for the most part, but also the faith we choose to have or not to have in humanity, in life, in our friends, in ourselves...and how Faith is first and foremost a matter of choice. It's...more
Olga Miret
James Robertson's the Testament of Gideon Mack is a mixture of fairly realistic everyday drama (priest in a small town in Scotland, a priest who does not believe in God, but focuses on charity causes and making a name for himself, adulterous, who suffers a terrible loss) and the whimsical and fantastic. There are legends about strange goings ons around the village, that is in a fairly rural and ragged area, and Gideon gets to experience first hand some of these strange things.
I'm not spoiling a...more
Jim Thornton
Initially a little heavy going, but the pace soon picks up.

As someone brought up in the area the book was set in, and brought up in the same era (admittedly not as a minister's son thankfully), I was able to relate fully to the story of Gideon's life. As a deep agnostic all of my life, and as an atheist today, I was also able to relate to many of the characters and Gideon himself. Also, I was able to identify people from my own past who appeared in the book (such as the dour, hypocritical Mcmurr...more
Robertson expertly combines his two main strands of influence into a heady combination of testimony and metaphysical mystery. From Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Sunset Song he lifts the standing stones and the Presbyterianism; and from James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner he lifts the structure, the plot, the devil, the lot. You have to admire Robertson's moxy, he deliberately set out to homage the two great titans of Scottish literature, and you admire him even more w...more
Sophie Fletcher
Aug 26, 2009 Sophie Fletcher rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone who doesn't want to think
A book which I kept reading because something interesting always seemed to be around the next page, but never sadly never materialising.

The most intriguing characters were unexplored, whilst the mundane ones were examined in sonambulistic depth. The most exciting and anticipated section of the book, meeting the devil, was a complete let down and the moral of the story, which jumped out in the last few pages, was rather insultingly spelt out, in flashing lights, by the author - just in case you'...more
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I picked this book up. It certainly sounded interesting; a faithless minister meets the devil. Intriguing to say the least but was it my thing? I wasn’t convinced.

Having finished the book a few days ago I chose to write the review now to give myself a bit of time to think about what it all meant. I’m still not sure.
Gideon Mack is a fictional minister in the Church of Scotland, as the title suggests the book is an account of his life written by him. In the...more
I've never been too keen on mystery novels, and I wasn't positive this was even a mystery until the last 100 pages or so. But I loved this book. The Scottish dialect is refreshing. The characters are everyday people with real problems. It felt like a real testament of someones life. That's how good Roberson is. He makes you sympathize with his characters; root for them even; laugh with them.

I felt like it dragged in the middle a bit, but the ending was well worth it: Gideon's slow spiral toward...more
Oct 29, 2008 Gary rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: those sceptical of religion
Recommended to Gary by: Rob Kelsey
If you're gonna write a book about meeting the Devil, you should write a book about meeting the Devil, not a fictional biography with minimal Devil interaction.
Amanda Day
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brilliant premise for a novel, and Robertson is a very gifted writer.
3.8 stars. Quite good, an interesting story.
The Testament of Gideon Mack tells the tale of a ruined preacher confessing his sins. Gideon has been preaching the good word but has secretly been living a lie, breaking a selection of the Ten Commandments and most shockingly, meeting the devil. The tale is told through a journal put together shortly before he disappears. Through the journal you see the slow unraveling of a man struggling with his own morality and life choices.

Gideon Mack is certainly a captivating read with an interesting eno...more
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James Robertson (born 1958) is a Scottish writer who grew up in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire. He is the author of several short story and poetry collections, and has published four novels: The Fanatic, Joseph Knight, The Testament of Gideon Mack, and And the Land Lay Still. Joseph Knight was named both the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year and the Saltire Society Book of the Year in 2003/04...more
More about James Robertson...
And the Land Lay Still The Fanatic The Professor of Truth Joseph Knight Republics of the Mind

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“But I do like Scotland. I like the miserable weather. I like the miserable people, the fatalism, the negativity, the violence that's always just below the surface. And I like the way you deal with religion. One century you're up to your lugs in it, the next you're trading the whole apparatus in for Sunday superstores. Praise the Lord and thrash the bairns. Ask and ye shall have the door shut in your face. Blessed are they that shop on the Sabbath, for they shall get the best bargains. Oh yes, this is a very fine country.” 9 likes
“I prefer the pen. There is something elemental about the glide and flow of nib and ink on paper.” 7 likes
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