Will N Van's Reviews > Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

Christ the Lord by Anne Rice
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's review
Jul 05, 08

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Recommended for: Biblical scholars
Read in July, 2008

When I approached the bookstore counter, the attendant said this: "Isn't it strange that someone who essentially began her career writing soft-core pornography (Anne Rice) would end up writing about the life of Christ?"

I laughed for about two hours straight.

Given that framework, I don't think it is any stranger for Anne Rice to undergo both a literary and personal conversion than it was for Cat Stevens to become Yusuf Islam. People undergo radical conversions of thought even later in life due to circumstance or personal epiphany. The question is, was the book a literary epiphany?

Rice lives up to her standards in terms of meticulous historical research. The book focuses on the life of Jesus from age seven to twelve, as he travels back from Egypt to Jerusalem, and the dangers he encounters. She relies on the Apocrypha for a few segments, specifically the death of Eleazar, and the tale of Jesus as a child with the Temple Elders. Jesus tells the narrative in first person limited looking back as an adult, and conveys the impression of a highly intelligent but often fearful child attempting to figure out the mystery of his own origin and his place in the world.

I love historical fiction, and use Mary Renault's The Persian Boy as a yardstick. Rice is undeniably talented, and has breathed life into her most well known characters (Lestat, Armand, etc.) and I assert this as someone who is not a big fan of vampire fiction. It may be that I was expecting too much, but this childhood Jesus simply not as vibrant and compelling as I would have hoped. Yes, we do realize that this is God in human form, and a child, with all the fears that a child would have in that region and that period. Jesus cries frequently. He clings to his mother. His teeth chatter when he is exposed to emotional distress. But a majority of the novel is spent in discussion with his relatives about the actions going on around him, as well as detailed descriptions of laws and observances. I know we are not dealing with Lestat here, but it would have been more engaging to see more reaction from Jesus as opposed to internalization. Interestingly, Satan appearing as Absalom in a dream in the latter half of the novel evokes some of the Vampire Chronicle imagery.

I suppose the biggest shock was reading the author's note, in which Rice seems to be advocating the position of Biblical literalist with her assertion that the Gospels were not late documents written after the fall of Jerusalem, and labeling the Gnostic Gospels as heresy. At the same time she shares her questioning as to how she could align herself with the faithful who advocate against a woman's right to choose, believe there is little evidence for Darwinist evolution, and are convinced that her gay son will go to Hell. Deeply confusing, but ultimately her own business.

Kudos to Anne Rice for even attempting this literary feat. I suppose anything that serves as a bit of a counter-weight to fare like "The Passion of the Christ," deserves praise.


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