|THE TESTAMENT OF MARY approaches the frisson of full-on speculative fiction in places. It is a rigorously grounded monologue, this book, the unvoiced thoughts of Mary, mother of Jesus. It is a short and brutal volume. Toibin’s Mary is a rational, hardened woman, being essentially menaced by Jesus’ “misfit” Disciples for a magical narrative of her son’s life (the required Testament of the title) which she stubbornly refused to invent for them. She holds some of the legends around her son to be hoaxes, others to be fantasies or madness.
Except for one. And it is a thrilling intrusion of the utterly alien into the prosaic and primitive world. The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. A luminous manifestation of the supernatural as it should be: genuinely disturbing, almost sickening. The flesh crawls at Lazarus jerking and kicking in his exhumed grave as the earth seems almost to need to expel him. A raw wound of a book, told simply and elegantly, with a thorn of The Weird in its guts.