Friday, February 28, 2014

381 (2014 #9). Mary, Called Magdalene

by Margaret George

Very little is known about the Mary Magdalene of the Bible.  Margaret George has taken the five events involving her in the Gospels, plus research into the era, and constructed a believable biographical novel about this female apostle and disciple of Jesus.  The story provides some how-and-why background for those five Biblical events, as well as showing what life was like, especially for a woman, at that time and place.

Part One of the book (about 200 pages) covers Mary's childhood up until the time she meets Jesus.  This section of the book was the most interesting for me.  Part Two is her discipleship, through Christ's death and resurrection and the Pentecost.  This section is the longest (about 350 pages, and probably could have been cut down a bit, given that it only covers three years.  Part Three (70 pages) is her apostleship and the rest of her life, and is told mostly in the form of letters and a "testament" she writes for her followers about those years.

Mary is a sympathetic and realistic character.  I will provide one spoiler here and tell you that in this book, she is not the prostitute of so many false legends.  However, I did not find the character of Jesus to be especially compelling.  Perhaps that was intentional on George's part, to keep the book from becoming overly religious.  Instead, it concentrates on the main character, whom the author (in an interview in the back of the edition I read) describes as "a spiritual seeker who must often choose between two mutually exclusive goals and as a strong, courageous woman."

Like all of Margaret George's books, this one is long - 630 pages, including a four-page afterword that explains her assumptions and lists some of her sources.  I liked this book better than her Helen of Troy, but not as much as The Memoirs of Cleopatra or The Autobiography of Henry VIII.   I would recommend it.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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