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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly written; challenging and thought-provoking
A wonderfully "new" type of novel that weaves history, myth, speculation, theology and story-telling together in a fascinating way. The research the author has done is offered up in the pages that make up a sort of commentary on the re-telling of the biblical story of Lazarus and his being raised from the dead. Whether or not you are a believer there is much to...
Published on 5 Aug. 2011 by CJ Craig

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea failed slightly by its format
The story of Lazarus will be familiar to most people; resurrected by Jesus after being dead for four days. Lazarus is a popular figure in art and literature, but his actual appearances in the bible are limited.

Beard addresses this, attempts to fill in the gaps and to answer the question as to why the myth of Lazarus is so enduring, despite being so sparse in...
Published on 20 Aug. 2011 by Mingo Bingo


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A matter of life and death (and life again), 11 Dec. 2011
By 
P. J. Edwards "PJE" (Nottingham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Hardcover)
At a gala performance of Jesus Christ Superstar, comedienne Victoria Wood was asked what she thought of the show. "It's very sad," she said, "he dies in the end you know."

Here it is Jesus's friend Lazarus who dies, not at the end but in the middle. Then comes back to life again, thanks to his childhood friend. We are presented with episodes from the childhood of Lazarus and Jesus, speculations about those formative years together and the different paths their lives subsequently followed.

"Among all the people Jesus knows, and all the people Jesus meets, Lazarus is unique in the Christian New Testament. Not in coming back from the dead (there were others) but in being named as Jesus's friend. Jesus has disciples, some of whom he loves, but Lazarus is his only recorded friend.
And famously, unforgettably, in the shortest verse of the bible, Lazarus can make Jesus weep."

However, as you can see, much of this novel reads like non-fiction. The author, as narrator, attempts to piece together the life (and death) (and life again) story of Lazarus, and his connection to Jesus, from the few clues to be found in the Bible. A kind of literary archaeobiography (biblioarchaeology?) setting out to answer questions like: what did Lazarus die of? He lives with his sisters, who are unaffected, so whatever he has cannot be infectious, for example...

"Lazarus has eight months to live. That much we know, but smallpox would have killed him quicker than that. His rash at this stage must therefore be scabies, caused by parasitic mites beneath the skin. The mite Sarcoptes scabiei clusters on bedding, clothing and other household objects. Impregnated female mites wait for contact with human skin, then seek out the folds of the body. They make a home in the softness between fingers and toes, inside the elbow or behind the knee, between the buttocks or in the red heat of the groin. They start tunnelling."

Beard switches between this forensic analysis and speculative historical-fiction in the way of a highbrow television docudrama. Reconstructing history while deconstructing the barrier between fiction and non-fiction. Leaving us to wonder how much of history is as speculative as fiction anyway. Where is the line between reality and imagination? Can we ever know?

Lazarus is Dead does not have the sweltering atmosphere of Jim Crace's Quarantine, but it is a fascinating and compelling read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book you'll want to talk about!, 5 Sept. 2011
By 
Arkgirl (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Hardcover)
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Not all books have you starting conversations with friends and family, even ones you thoroughly enjoy, but this has had me sharing and chatting away because it really made me think. It counts down its chapters through the 7 main miracles in the gospel of John from Cana's 'water to wine' through to Bethany and the resurrection of Lazarus then counts up 7 chapters as the 7 days take us through to the death and resurrection of Jesus. It uses biblical quotes, religious art and documents/histories of the period to build up a real flavour of the time and cleverly extrapolates a story of Lazarus from just a few snippets.
As a Christian I had no problem with the jumps and leaps, although not all were ones I found believable, because the joy of this book is that Beard gives us several questions that have you rushing off to explore more:
* would Joseph have shared the information from his dream just after the birth of Jesus, where he is told to flee to Egypt, or would he have selfishly neglected to tell anyone?
* how did Lazarus die?
* how did Lazarus become the only person referred to as a friend of Jesus?
These questions, and the answers suggested, made for intriguing and thought-provoking study.
The one aspect that slightly disappointed is that from the blurb I was expecting more of the 'after the resurrection' story and felt this aspect was a little curtailed and under-explored but overall a brave step out stylistically that will have me looking out for more by Richard Beard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual, original, compelling, 4 Sept. 2011
By 
marcoscu "marcoscu" (Chorley,UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Hardcover)
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Citing gospels, art, archaeology and Roman historians amongst other sources, Richard Beard attempts to get to the heart of who Lazarus really was, what his life might have been like, why he died, why he was brought back to life and what might have happened to him after the events described in John's Gospel.

Written in an odd style, part novel, part history textbook ,that took me a while to get into, Lazarus is Dead is a most unusual and original book in very many ways. I'm wary of saying too much, of spoiling this remarkable tale for the would-be reader.
It's very much a tale in three parts, and the first - covering Lazarus and Jesus' childhood and adolescence in Egypt and Nazareth - is a reasonably readable, entirely imagined tale of a Biblical character about whom we know little or nothing, filled with insight and historical detail and with terrific feeling for its time and place. The middle section covers the year of Lazarus's sickness, set against the background of Jesus' ministry and miracles. I found this part rather dry; Richard Bear frequently departs from the narrative to reflect on the many and varied sources on which he bases his conjectures. There's an abundance of brutal detail on sickness and healing and the rituals of death and the narrative gets a little lost in the murk of Lazarus' inevitable death and politics - religious and secular - as the powers that be debate on what is to be done about Jesus.

This book really comes into its own after Lazarus returns from the dead. What happens to a man who was dead for four days then returns in spectacular fashion, back to a world constrained by strict religious laws that consider death unclean, considers Lazarus unclean, a blasphemous abomination? Things look pretty bleak for Lazarus, and then Jesus is crucified and everything changes. Politics - Jewish and Roman - take over, everyone has an agenda and we really do not know which way the author is going to take things next. This last third of the tale is a truly compelling read and the ultimate ending, quite beautiful.

4 stars, because the 5* end more than makes up for the 3* middle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary story, 25 Aug. 2011
By 
S. Duncan "SED" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Hardcover)
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I had never considered what it would have been like for the subject of Christ's miracle of raising from the dead. This book, written with an amazing depth of knowledge of both the biblical reference and subsequent historical and religious reference, is quite remarkable. It tells the story of the life of Lazarus, concentrating mostly on his life in the year leading up to his first death. This is largely fiction, written in the present tense, but with a clear adherance to the few known 'facts' of his life based on John's gospel. The story is interspersed with biblical quotes as well as later historical interpretations, providing a very interesting framework, much like a thesis, but far more fun to read.

There was a lot about his story that I hadn't known before, such as the fact that only the gospel of John mentions this particular miracle. Richard Beard managed to elicit my empathy for the sheer horror and terror of Lazarus's situation as he approaches death, but his childhood friend, Jesus, doesn't even come to see him. The book runs with numbers at the top of the pages in a kind of count down to his death, from 7 downwards and after the point of death, 0, the numbers rise again as he seeks to find reason, purpose and understanding in what has happened.

This is definitely a very odd book, but one that I found compelling and worth the read. I was worried that the end would be awful, but it was not. I would certainly recommend it as a very unusual read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will get you thinking, and keep you thinking., 25 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Hardcover)
As a child, I went to church and Sunday School, so thought I was pretty knowlegeable about the Bible. This book has made me realise the limits of my information, in numerous ways; not only had I not had access to the historical scholarship, but I also had not put together various aspects of the Biblical account. Of course, many people don't have this background, but I'm guessing that most people will have some idea about "the raising of Lazarus"; this book will turn everything you thought you knew on its head.

Constantly informative and interesting, it subtly worms its way into your head, so that you start asking yourself questions about belief, tradition, spirituality, myth and truth. I could quote from it endlessly. Writing a review, I'm reluctant to spoil any of what the book reveals; but I would recommend it to anyone, from a Christian background or not. Incidentally, for those from a Christian background, the use of the word "god" in lower-case may initially be off-putting, but apparently this has good credentials in Christian literature (Tom Wright et al) so just go with it. But for those from a non-Christian background, all I can say is please read this book - I'll be surprised if you don't end up at least slightly tearful by the end, and then once you dry your tears you will have a sense of hope and joy that very few books can engender.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable imaginitive reconstruction of the life and deaths of Lazarus, 6 Sept. 2011
By 
Alan Pavelin (Chislehurst, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Hardcover)
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Richard Beard is something of an experimental novelist, and here he imagines the life and two deaths of the man brought out of his tomb by Jesus, as recounted in John's Gospel. The chapter numbers begin at 7, and count down to zero (corresponding to the "seven signs" of Jesus in the Gospel) and up to 7 again. There is a tremendous amount of research here; not just many biblical quotes but innumerable books, poems, paintings, and even films are quoted referring to Lazarus, and some fascinating facts are revealed (example: every episcopal throne in the town of Larnaca in Cyprus bears the icon of "St. Lazarus", and none that of Jesus).
Beard suggests that Jesus and Lazarus are the same age, and grew up together from early childhood. Martha and Mary are older sisters, and there was a younger brother who died as a child. As a Christian, I can accept all of Beard's speculations as possible, though some readers may wince at some of them (for example, that Jesus could not swim). Successive sections of each chapter lurch from the fictional story to scholarly research and back again.
The whole becomes "a rollercoaster philosophical journey" (to quote a reviewer on the back cover) and is a very lively read. I enjoyed this book the further I got with it. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lazarus re-imagined - brilliantly, 24 Mar. 2013
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Paperback)
An utterly absorbing read. Richard Beard has taken the biblical account of Jesus' resurrection of his friend Lazarus from the Gospel of John and woven what he calls an `imaginative representation' of Lazarus's life leading up to, and after, that momentous event. It works really well, and by the end of the book I felt that Beard had unquestionably added something new to the (already considerable) stock of works of `the historical human imagination' (246) on this subject, many of which he has clearly studied in the course of writing it. Perhaps best thought of as fictional biography, the book crackles with allusions, both biblical and more contemporary. It works so well because the author has read the biblical text so attentively, and asks questions about what John's Gospel leaves unsaid. About what it can mean for Jesus to call Lazarus `friend' (the only person so named in the Gospels) and yet not save him before death; about the parallels and differences between Lazarus' resurrection, and Jesus' own, a week later; and about the links, in a tense, simmering and magnificently-evoked Jerusalem, between faith, `miracles' and power - whether domestic, priestly or Roman. Brilliant.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THOUGHT PROVOKING, 5 Aug. 2011
By 
Ludovico Sforza (Surrey England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Hardcover)
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This book is about Lazarus and what leads up to his raising from the dead and how he's been seen, and judged, by subsequent generations. It's about his childhood, his sisters and his relationship with both the temple priests and Jesus. Well it's not really, although he's the titular hero, the sub-text is writ large and in part it's really about Jesus and the authors very clever and well written, attempt to put some flesh on the bare bones of Jesus childhood and the rational for choosing to raise Lazarus and how that fits into Christian theology.

Sounds dry, it's far from it, Mr Beard mixes fact and fiction in a way I've not read since I last picked up a book by George Ebers. But, whereas Ebers tends to introduce `facts' to support his narrative in a heavy handed and sometimes discordant way, Mr Beard does it with considerably more skill I think and it flows with the narrative so one hardly notices where fictional conversations tail off and `fact' is introduced.

The books covers lots of ground, facts and theories but, it is in the end a work of historical fiction, it couldn't be otherwise as we have so very little information about Lazarus. Though I think that by the time you finish this very well written and very enjoyable book (it's the first book I've read for ages which I couldn't put down and read at one sitting) you'll think you know a lot more about him than most other people.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Filling in biblical narrative gaps, 23 Aug. 2011
By 
D. Thurgood "dan.tee" (Liverpool Uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Hardcover)
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I really enjoyed this. I'm a Christian, so read this with some level of trepidation as well as great interest. I feared it would stray into [gasp!] BLASPHEMY! but instead was pleasantly surprised to find that it simply didn't. There is much conjecture, but the author has quoted from the Gospels on many occasions, and has added really only a little literary licence about the character of Jesus. However, the more extreme fundamentalists among the readers of this review may find the descriptions of Jesus' life in Nazareth as a young boy and teenager a little unpalatable. However, like I said, nothing here could be seen as blasphemous. Unless you're a total 'Christian' lunatic. Anyway.

The narrative chiefly deals with the paradox of the parallel lives of Lazarus and Jesus. As Jesus' miracles become more amazing, so Lazarus gets sicker, until of course, finally he dies. (Please, no moaning about plot spoilers here!) The research that the author has done in to 1st century Israel life is extensive, and he quotes from many sources as well as the Gospels. I found this very enlightening.

Considering that Lazarus is mentioned very little in the Bible, the author has done a fantastic job of fleshing out his character, even as the flesh is fading from his bones. Whether you're a christian or not, this book is highly enjoyable - it's a great tale of intrigue and fear, revelation and hope, with Roman spies, Sanhedrin duplicity and Jewish assassins. Great stuff!
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is a brilliant book... do read it, 4 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Hardcover)
This review appeared in 2011 in The Tablet: Lazarus Is Dead
What an extraordinary book this is - ingenious and gripping in all the best ways (sends you back to the Bible, too). Before reading it I thought that it must be touched with the zeitgeist of novels like Jim Crace's Quarantine (Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness) or Anne Wroe's biography of Pilate, but it's much more its own animal - shifting and changing position: the tone equally elusive, moving from a journalist's objectivity to subtle, wry satire.

The speculation around the premises on which the Man Booker Prize is established - should it highlight the newest work (and cloud of older books) by an author without enough honour in his land, or promote a brilliant newcomer, or support the bravely experimental, or stick to the weightily literary, or go for comforting readability? - seems apposite here. I cannot think now, having read it, why Lazarus is dead wasn't at the top of the shortlist, the bookies creeping hopelessly away from its starry aura. I cannot think of another book which fulfills pretty well all those criteria (above) - and if you think that the first and second are in conflict, I would say that Richard Beard is a newcomer to me, and that I am going in search of his older books now.

This is the story of the Biblical Lazarus. Beard hardly had much to work on; John, ch.11, is it, in terms of the facts. The essence of a good researcher, I suppose - perhaps the essence of a good journalist - is in the ability to sniff out the last smear of a factoid which can be added to the small pile of verifiable truth; the essence of a good writer is in the imaginative ability to spin a great fizzing candy ball of gold out of that small pile of straw.

Both are employed here. Beard uses every word in John: 11 as the skeleton of his tale; he also whizzes about the New Testament, collecting supporting information, such as where Jesus was at relevant moments; what the Sanhedrin was up to; the putative back story. But the most striking aspects of all this collecting are the other sources he ransacks, and the place given to the pile of the straw within the novel. He must have read every book which mentions Lazarus (Norman Mailer, The Gospel according to the Son; O'Neill, Lazarus laughed; Yeats, Calvary), and looked at every painting (Castagno's The Last Supper, the Trés Riches Heures); many of them, especially the books, are invoked here, as though they carried the same evidential weight as the Bible. And the collected references alternate with the onward narrative flow, so that Beard's inhabiting of the characters of Lazarus, Mary, Martha and Jesus, and his realization of this short anecdote as a large, complex drama, are underpinned by passages which appear to give validity (or alternatives) to his exegesis.

The result, which posits a theory for Lazarus's place in the Divine Scheme of Christ's coming, examining and testing the theory and offering diverse variations on the different viewpoints, is both exhilaratingly fresh and mordantly ironic. It's also a tremendously good read.
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Lazarus Is Dead
Lazarus Is Dead by Richard Beard (Paperback - 2 Aug. 2012)
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