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The Testament of Gideon Mack

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  3,671 ratings  ·  350 reviews
The Testament of Gideon Mack is James Robertson's acclaimed novel exploring faith and belief.

For Gideon Mack, faithless minister, unfaithful husband and troubled soul, the existence of God, let alone the Devil, is no more credible than that of ghosts or fairies. Until the day he falls into a gorge and is rescued by someone who might just be Satan himself.

Mack's testament
Paperback, 386 pages
Published January 18th 2007 by Penguin (first published 2006)
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3.80  · 
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 ·  3,671 ratings  ·  350 reviews

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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
Jun 02, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  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.
Joe McNally
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
James Garner
Feb 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite, uk-fiction
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
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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
tom bomp
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, scottish
I find it hard to know what to say about this because the story is really about a pretty ordinary life - obviously the devil meeting story is important but it's a small part of the story and you shouldn't go in expecting much fantasy type stuff. It's a fictional memoir of an ordinary person, a particular way of life, a particular location, told from a maybe not completely reliable perspective. The events are mostly pretty ordinary yet the writing makes them really come alive and it's easy to get ...more
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sophie Fletcher
Aug 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
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 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'd switche
Jeremy Maddux
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson - A Scottish pastor disappears for three days while jogging. He comes back with a bizarre tale of meeting the devil. Part of his final testimony involves him saying that the devil really isn't that bad of a guy and has actually given up on the battle between good and evil. Although it never completely resolves this issue, As a reader, I am inclined to believe the devil was deceiving him.
Apr 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
Stephen McQuiggan
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Reverend Gideon Mack, in love with his best friend's wife, finds a standing stone in the woods. Gideon no longer believes in God, but the stone leads him to questions of faith he cannot answer until he falls into the abyss of the Black Jaws. After three days he returns from the dead to tell the villagers he has been the Devil. This is a book that posits that believing in something is better than believing in nothing. I loved the fact that God does not make an appearance (even the ...more
Aug 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
A minister falls into a gorge. For three days, he is lost. Then he returns, and tells people that he met the devil down there.

The cover (and blurb, and prologue) might make you think that you're going to read a bit of a yarn - the tale of a minister and the devil, and their meeting. Alas, that is not to be, for this is a novel about a minister, and the devil is only in it for a few pages near the end.

Basically, it's a wannabe literary novel that adds a small sprinkling of unreal to have the adde
Lari Don
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
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
Ali Schultz
Yes, again. Yes, again. I don't know what it is about Scottish folk devilry but I can't stop reading this book, at least partially because James Robertson writes it so well.
Dec 23, 2008 rated it really liked it

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
Jan 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2006
Mid 4. 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 nar ...more
Victoria Jelinek Jensen
Reverend Gideon Mack is a troubled man, an unfaithful husband, and a theological skeptic. For him, the existence of God, the Devil, heaven and hell are on par with the existence of fairies and ghosts. Till he nearly dies and is rescued by someone who seems to be Satan himself.

Inspired by a Scottish folk story, this novel is an intriguing blend of legend, history, memoir, and fiction. The subject matter is compelling and the writing is exceptional. I love the concept of a conversation with the D
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jim Thornton
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Kirsty Grant
Jul 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a really good read. The novel is written in the style of a memoir and is pretty convincing. There are layers and layers of myths and legends throughout the novel and truth and lies become so merged that the reader is left wondering about the clarity of the protagonist and the statements and evidence of the editor and journalist who represent the story. The novel explores the life of Gideon Mack, who, like his father become a minister of the Christian church. Gideon however, has no real ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, fiction, bookgroup
This book is basically about religion and good and evil and if you think the devil exists. I had to speed read through large parts of the book as I found it so boring. Other parts to do with Gideon relationship with his wife I found more engaging but I’m afraid books about religion do bore me and I don’t find myself interested in the debate about why religion is important on the whole nor do I believe in god or the devil.
Harsha Priolkar
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Olga Miret
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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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
“I prefer the pen. There is something elemental about the glide and flow of nib and ink on paper.” 24 likes
“I never savoured life for what it was: I only wanted to get to the next stage of it. I wish now I'd taken a little more time, but it is too late for such regrets. I was like the child in the cinema whose chief anticipation lies not in the film but in wondering what he will do after it is over; I was the reader who hurries through a 500-page novel not to see what will happen but simply to get to the end.” 3 likes
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