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The Liars' Gospel [Kindle Edition]

Naomi Alderman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Granta Best Young British Novelist

'A visceral retelling of the events surrounding the life of Jesus' Hilary Mantel, Guardian, Books of the Year

'He was a traitor, a rabble-leader, a rebel, a liar and a pretender to the throne. We have tried to forget him here.'

Now, a year after Yehoshuah's death, four people tell their stories. His mother flashes between grief and rage while trouble brews between her village and the occupying soldiers. Iehuda, who was once Yehoshuah's friend, recalls how he came to lose his faith and find a place among the Romans. Caiaphas, the High Priest at the great Temple in Jerusalem, tries to hold the peace between Rome and Judea. Bar-Avo, a rebel, strives to bring that peace tumbling down.

Viscerally powerful in its depictions of the realities of the period: massacres and riots, animal sacrifice and human betrayal, The Liars' Gospel finds echoes of the present in the past. It was a time of political power-play and brutal tyranny and occupation. Young men and women took to the streets to protest. Dictators put them down with iron force. Rumours spread from mouth to mouth. Rebels attacked the greatest Empire the world has ever known. The Empire gathered its forces to make those rebels pay.

And in the midst of all of that, one inconsequential preacher died. And either something miraculous happened, or someone lied.

Praise for The Liars' Gospel:

'Ambitious, genius' Tom Holland, Guardian

'Remarkable . . . paints the sweep of history through the sharp pain of human love and loss' Observer

'Succeeds magnificently, superb, brilliant. A provocative and mesmerizing novel' New Statesman

Naomi Alderman grew up in the Orthodox Jewish community in northwest London. Her first novel, Disobedience, was published in 10 languages and won the Orange Award for New Writers and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year prize. Like her second novel, The Lessons, it was broadcast as Radio 4's Book at Bedtime. She is a frequent radio broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Guardian and Prospect. She lives in London.

Product Description


A glittering style, a compulsive pleasure (Metro)

Exciting, entertaining and enthralling read - this is story telling of the very highest order. It's certainly one of my books of the year. (Bookbag)

The dark wit that characterised her previous novels, Disobedience and The Lessons, runs through this book as an undercurrent, but The Liars' Gospel shows the hand of a mature novelist, a daring and accomplished work on a broad canvas. She is as much at home describing the sorrow of a mother as the cut and thrust of theological debate, as convincing on the weariness of a man forced into moral compromise as the rush of blood in a teenage boy caught up in his first riot. She paints the sweep of history through the sharp pain of human love and loss, and it is a remarkable achievement. (Stephanie Merritt The Observer)

Remarkable. Alderman is a supremely talented writer (Joanne Harris)

A series of thoughtful, humane sketches that seek to earnestly put the meat of character on the bones of the bible... An evocative, secular exploration of the New Testaments' sprawling horizons (Metro)

Witty, dark and compelling (Charlotte Mendelson)

Marvellously told and wonderfully done (Maeve Kennedy)

Such intensity ... a big book about history and violence, you can feel the blood running off the page. It is also a very personal and human book (Dreda Say Mitchell)

First piece I've read that puts you completely into the Jewish history. A fascinating new look (Cahal Dallat)

Gripping and visceral (Arifa Akbar The Independent)

'The descriptions of violence are visceral. Parts could be describing contemporary Afghanistan with only a change of names... indisputably elegant. (Stuart Kelly Scotland on Sunday)

About the Author

Naomi Alderman grew up in the Orthodox Jewish community in northwest London. Her first novel, Disobedience, was published in 10 languages and won the Orange Award for New Writers and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year prize. Like her second novel, The Lessons, it was broadcast as Radio 4's Book at Bedtime. She is a frequent radio broadcaster and she is a regular contributor to several publications including the Guardian and Prospect. She lives in London.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 734 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (30 Aug. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #101,891 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely fresh take on an old story 23 Aug. 2012
By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER
In "The Liars' Gospel", Naomi Alderman gives the perspective of four people on the recent death of a Jewish man named Yehoshuah, who is more commonly known these days by the anglicized name of Jesus. These perspectives include Miryam (Mary), the teacher's mother, Iehuda of Qeriot (Judas Iscariot), a one time follower of the man, Caiaphas, the High Priest of the great Temple in Jerusalem and finally Bar-Avo, Barabbas, a rebel who is determined to bring down the occupying Roman presence. What makes this such a remarkable book is the sheer visceral nature of the story telling. Each story is vividly told, and Alderman evokes the time and place to such a level that you half expect to have developed a sun tan while reading the book.

Alderman has clearly researched the subject extensively, but she is never "preachy" (an unfortunate choice of words, I acknowledge) on the learning. Rather, it informs the action in a way that is both entertaining and informative. On top of this she adds a huge dose of the human factor that ensures that this is never a dry read. It touches on heavy issues, like faith and the intrinsic relationship between organized religion and politics but with a lightness of touch that never sacrifices entertainment for her message.

Alderman catches the grief of the mother combined with anger beautifully. It's both moving and thoughtful. In the telling of Iehuda's story too, she captures the delicate balance of gaining and loss of faith and the pressures of self interest. Caiaphas too is torn between the demands of the faith he represents and the protection of his people and way of life which involves cooperating with the occupying Roman army. Bar-Avo has no such interest in working with the hated Romans. He's a rebel with a cause.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Most writers spend their entire careers trying to write a book as moving, as thought-provoking and as wise as `The Liars' Gospel'. Nearly all fail.

That Naomi Alderman has managed it by only her third novel is a minor wonder.

The book re-tells the story of Jesus from the perspective of four people who met him, but it does so much more. It tells the story of Rome's subjugation of the Jewish people. It shows how eye-witness accounts become stories, stories become myths, myths become accepted truths, and accepted truths change the world. And it shows how when leaders begin to believe in the myths that surround them it eventually destroys them and those they lead.

`The Liars' Gospel' is a novel of both epic scale and deep personal insight. It is exciting, funny, mournful, provocative, and beautifully written. Most importantly, this is not just a novel for Jews, Christians or fans of historical fiction. The events described have shaped the modern world, and this novel offers a different way of understanding how we got to where we are today, and there are clear parallels implied between then and now. Alderman is too skilful to write a polemic, understanding only too well that history is too complicated for shallow consideration, that all sides have motivations however misguided they may be. This is a novel that lives and breathes through characterisation and the quality of its prose, not by heavy-handedly hammering home a `message'.

A major work by a novelist who is fast becoming one of our most essential writers. If there's been a better book released in 2012 I have yet to read it. Sadly, it is almost certainly too good to win the Booker.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Humanity of Jesus shines through 31 Oct. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Christian Church has always wrestled with the challenge of its belief that Jesus is both God and human being. Although I consider myself to be an orthodox Christian I sometimes feel that the Church has overemphasised divinity of Christ at the expense of his humanity. This new novel provides an important corrective and approaches the historical figure of Jesus from the viewpoint of four important characters in his story - his mother Mary, his disciple Judas, the High Priest Caiphas and the freedom fighter Barabbas. In writing her third novel, Naomi Alderman has skilfully used both the gospel narratives and the writings of first century historian such as Josephus to retell the story of the Jewish rabbi from Nazareth. Particularly clever was the novelist's treatment of the Barabbas story. Although the novel's ironic title was sensationalist, her treatment of the figure of Jesus was reverent. How refreshing for a writer to treat Jesus as a human being who, although he was passionate in his belief in the imminent Reign of God also had time to laugh with his friends. I was so engrossed by the book, I read it in one sitting and then ordered Ms Alderman's second novel, 'The Lessons' which I also thoroughly enjoyed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
`She thinks of how all the stories she has ever heard must have come to be. There are only three ways: either they were true, or someone was mistaken, or someone lied.'

There have been many re-tellings of the gospels: this is a postmodern one that vividly displays the instability and contingency of the stories - all stories - which have come to be known as the new testament. Alderman has constructed a vivid set of narratives, four to mirror those of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, that re-tell the central story of Christianity, but from varying and diffuse perspectives.

For Miryam (Mary), her son Yehoshuah was `a traitor, a rabble-leader, a rebel, a liar and a pretender to the throne' - but for all her anger, she has never overcome her pain at his abandonment of his family. For Iehuda from Qeriot (Judas Iscariot) he was something quite different; and for Bar-Avo (Barabbas) the story of Jesus is almost a footnote in a tale of political struggle against Roman imperialism.

As each of them, and Caiaphas, the high-priest of the temple of Jerusalem, continues to tell stories about the man they knew and the events they participated in, we see them weaving strands that are sometimes self-consciously false but will come to take their place in the bible - as one of our characters says, `someone sold them out for a handful of silver' but it's not, in this case, Iehuda.

Alderman's book is a very intelligent engagement with the process of myth-making and she draws attention, towards the end, to the way in which the story of Jesus draws on Greek, Roman and eastern myths and stories: `he became, like Caesar, the son of a god. Like the god Tammuz, or the god Ba'al, or the god Orpheus, it was said he died and rose again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A master of storytelling portrays the limitless power and full horrors...
This is the storytelling of a master - As I read the four stories, I "lived" each one - the sights, the sounds, the colours and the emotions. Read more
Published 12 hours ago by Susan Glazier
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
interesting read
Published 11 days ago by veronica
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Both books I did no want to put down. Naomi Alderman is a marvelous author.
Published 5 months ago by Stella Joslin
2.0 out of 5 stars Total fictionalised rubbish. Bears no bearing on the Gospel ...
Total fictionalised rubbish. Bears no bearing on the Gospel and is therefore offensive. The author may be Jewish but her research is a bit wonky. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Penny Foster
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
All good
Published 7 months ago by A G.
1.0 out of 5 stars Award winning?
nice idea, poorly written use of 'facts' interesting... main problem is the lack of differentiation between the voices of those telling the stories
Published 8 months ago by PoloMinted
4.0 out of 5 stars The Gospels From a New Perspective
Naomi Alderman's third novel is an examination of the life and legend of Jesus - seen, refreshingly and perhaps unusually, from a Jewish perspective. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Kate Hopkins
3.0 out of 5 stars A provoking book
The local groups within the Sea of Faith Network like to read and discuss religious books which are not afraid to depart from conventional beliefs. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ashby Ball
5.0 out of 5 stars imaginative and accurate
The author grew up in the Orthodox Jewish community in northwest London.
This book narrates events between Pompey's Siege of Jerusalem (63 BCE) and Titus' Siege of Jerusalem... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mr. D. P. Jay
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 10 months ago by Marjorie Richardson
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