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Book Report: The Liars' Gospel

So, the book I am most interesting in reading right now is The Power, by Naomi Alderman, which has been winning all kinds of UK awards and looks absolutely terrific. Sadly, and you can see this at the linky link up there, it isn’t out in the US yet. What!? This outrage must not stand!

Well, anyway. Since I couldn’t read the thing I wanted to read, I picked up The Liars’ Gospel, which I was a little suspicious of. It is in the recently-fairly-common subgenre of books purporting to retell Bible Stories in a historically accurate fashion, and while I have enjoyed some of them, I wasn’t really looking for another. And of course I’d on the whole rather read about Tamar or Shammai than about Jesus anyway. Still, she was winning a bunch of awards, and it certainly could be interesting, and well, what the heck, anyway, it’s a library, if I don’t like it I won’t finish it.

I did finish it. I did like it… sort of. I mean, it is very well-written, and the historical setting seems to have been well-handled (YHB favorite Amy-Jill Levine evidently read and assisted with the manuscript) (Wait, A-J has written a children’s book?) and the characters are vibrant and plausible. She does the interesting thing with it, and writes from the point of view of characters named in the Gospels, but has the Jesus story intersect with their own stories only tangentially. I don’t know if a Christian would find it blasphemous (Ms. Alderman is a Jew who grew up in Orthodoxy) but I found it only mildly theologically provocative. Until the end, when it was just irritating—whereas most the book, I think, rather generously evokes the notion that this is one possible set of stories around the Jesus story, one possible frame for the remarkable events of first-century Jerusalem, the end of the book seems to make a claim to particular historical accuracy that I think brings down the tone of the book as a whole. I almost wrote from a sort of fantasy to a sort of apologia but that overstates it in both directions, I think. Probably.

Still. I did wind up staying up later than I meant to, on a couple of nights, thinking I would put the book down soon. That ain’t bad. And it feels like the sort of book that sticks with a person, honestly; a book that I will think about, when I think about various parts of the Christian Scripture, and I might well wind up liking it more, over time. Or, of course, not. And it depends also, I suppose, on whether I find other people to talk about the book with—this is the sort of book that is meant to be discussed, I think. Which I admire and even like.

And the author, having won a prestigious literary prize, immediately said that she wanted to write for Doctor Who, so that’s all right. D’y’see?

That was the last time I spoke with President Trump,,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

Ha! I had just become aware of The Power, and then its outrageous unavailability, bare minutes before seeing this post. How's about this -- she's got another book, Disobedience, at my library, I'll grab it and report back.


Well, sadly, my report back is that I flipped through Disobedience and bounced right off of it. It's probably a very good book, but every snippet I read evoked a feeling of claustrophobia that I just don't have the spare stress-management for at this juncture.


Disobedience looked to me like a book not-to-my-taste, while The Liars' Gospel is at least in a genre that I quite like, even if I hadn't been in the mood for that particular subgenre. I think I'll wait for The Power until October instead of attempting another of Ms. Alderman's books. But if I don't report on it by Thanksgiving, remind me—by then I might have forgotten all about it, after all.

Thanks,
-V.


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