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The Testament of Mariam Paperback – 9 Nov 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: YouWriteOn (9 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849234892
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849234894
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,559,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


She writes with passion and the book, her fourth, is shot through with brilliant description and scholarship...[it] is a timely reminder of the harsh realities, and the daily humiliations, of the Roman occupation of First Century Israel. You can almost smell the dust and blood.
--Peter Rhodes, Express & Star, December 10. 2009

Mixing the known with the fictional and making the resulting story not only believable and compelling but also with an integrity all its own is no mean feat. But in her latest novel, writer and academic Ann Swinfen has taken what has often been called the greatest story ever told...and given it a place, a context in history and in the human heart that opens up a new world of thought-provoking story-telling. The Testament of Mariam is set in the distant world of the first century, in lands that...still do exist, and is a tale peopled by real figures and their fictional counterparts whose lives and times come together to create a compelling vision of what was and what might have been. It also, in its scope and vision, holds up a mirror to the present day and the continuing turbulence of a world in almost continuous transition...Her writing...[paints] an amazingly detailed and vibrant picture of flesh and blood human beings, not only the symbols many of them have become...but real and believable and understandable.
--Helen Brown, Courier & Advertiser, December 18 2009

About the Author

Ann Swinfen spent her childhood partly in England and partly on the east coast of America. She was educated at Somerville College, Oxford, where she read Classics and Mathematics and married a fellow undergraduate, the historian David Swinfen. While bringing up their five children and studying for a postgraduate MSc in Mathematics and a BA and PhD in English Literature, she had a variety of jobs, including university lecturer, translator, freelance journalist and software designer. She served for nine years on the governing council of the Open University and for five years worked as a manager and editor in the technical author division of an international computer company, but gave up her full-time job to concentrate on her writing, while continuing part-time university teaching. In 1995 she founded Dundee Book Events, a voluntary organisation promoting books and authors to the general public. Her first three novels, The Anniversary, The Travellers, and A Running Tide, all with a contemporary setting but also an historical resonance, were published by Random House, with translations into Dutch and German. The Testament of Mariam marks something of a departure. Set in the first century, it recounts, from an unusual perspective, one of the most famous and yet ambiguous stories in human history. At the same time it explores life under a foreign occupying force, in lands still torn by conflict to this day. Her second historical novel, Flood, is set in the fenlands of East Anglia during the seventeenth century, where the local people fought desperately to save their land from greedy and unscrupulous speculators. Currently she is working on a series set in late sixteenth century London, featuring a young Marrano physician who is recruited as a code-breaker and spy in Walsingham’s secret service. The first book in the series is The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez. She now lives in Broughty Ferry, on the northeast coast of Scotland, with her husband, formerly vice-principal of the University of Dundee, a cocker spaniel, and two Maine coon cats. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Set in the 1st century in Galilee in lands that still exist this is a fictional depiction of (what may have been) real life events.
Normally I wouldn’t bother reading a book with such an iconic religious story attached to it and I’m not quite sure how I came across this book but I am so very glad I did. The reviews have already been brilliant for this book so I ‘looked inside’ and was engrossed by the first few words, sentences and paragraphs and was already thinking 5*.

The style of writing is quite delicious, you can taste the atmosphere of 1st Century Galilee family, their work, the children, the social attitudes of the time but it is not so archaic that a modern reader can't understand it. The political turmoil of the time is brilliantly depicted, class attitudes, rich against poor, soldiers of the mighty Romans against the oppressed people who live in the land.

Mariam is the sister of Yeshûa and we follow her journey following his journey through the lands spreading the word. The names were a little difficult to comprehend to begin with but in a very short while you became used to them and they added to the reality of the times.

After the crucifixion of Yeshûa Mariam has to flee the country and we join her in her last days as she recalls her life as a young girl growing up with a brother who was always different, she makes the decision to follow him on his travels. She kept her family and her roots secret until her dying day when at the end she is sought out by a stranger who delivers her a message.

This story and the characters in this book stayed with me in waking moments, restful moments, always in the back of my mind, like an addiction until I was able to pick my Kindle up again and carry on reading to the end. In fact I could believe this was a true story rather than a work of fiction.

I’m certainly going to read more of this author.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a quite lyrical, but in no way over-sweet or saccharined account of the early years of the man we know as Jesus Christ - and his younger sister, Mariam. The book is obviously well-researched but Swinfen does not allow this to stagger her story, instead it helps us to see the environment; the arid terrain and olive trees; and to understand how people lived then. I found the character of Mariam convincing, and her own personal story is, I am sure, very much that of a woman of her time. I thoroughly recommend this novel.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
‘The Testament of Mariam’ is a fascinating and very clever novel which would appeal both those who follow Christianity and those who don’t. This is a superb historical novel which successfully transports us to life in First Century Galilee and Gaul. Dusty, sun-baked and oppressed to different degrees by the Romans, the landscape of the Swinfen’s novel is a character in its own right. Told from the point of view of Mariam, the elderly - and now dying - sister of Jesus, this imaginative and quiet novel almost underplays the most retold story of the Western world as we follow Mariam from her home village in Galilee to the vine-clad slopes of Gaul. Thoroughly researched, the novel explains some of the most glaring exaggerations of the Christ-story and provides an excellent twist to the role played by Judas in the betrayal of Jesus. Thoroughly recommended to Historical Fiction lovers, Christians and atheists alike.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is my kind of book. It combines an interesting take on historical events with strong characterization, polished writing and a powerful evocation of the time in which it is set. The invention of Mariam, Yeshua/Jesus' fictional sister, from whose viewpoint the events are told breathes new life into the biblical story. The author has obviously done a great deal of research into how life and the places where the novel is set would have been in the first century AD, and she has conjured and excellent novel out of it. I really felt I was there in the middle of the action.
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Format: Paperback
I’d been intrigued by this book for some time. I had spoken to Ann via social media, where I had been introduced to her by a friend, and of the numerous books Ann has released, this one particularly piqued my interest early on. And so I bought it and added it to my reading list, awaiting the time when I had a free week or so in my reading schedule.

The story? The story is simple. When the Emperor Constantine and his various bishops sat in their council chamber and decided what stories of the Christian sect would go into the official Bible, they selected many bits and pieces, letters and visions and so forth, but they chose only four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But a gospel is simply a memoir by one of the people who knew Jesus, and so with those four they included, think on how many gospels they discarded, including the ones of the other disciples. I have oft heard of various apocryphal gospels and been intrigued as to what other views of the figure ‘Jesus’ they might have given us.

Well, the Testament of Mariam is a fictional gospel. Narrated by the ageing matriarch of a farming family in Gallia Narbonensis, it soon becomes clear that this old woman who now lives in a Roman world with a family and farm of her own was once a very different person, living an impoverished life in Gallilee with a sizeable family, one of whom was destined to change the world.

For this is a tale of Jesus (Yeshua in his own tongue) from his youth to his last days, told by a sister history does not document. Mariam gives us a view of the Jesus with whom anyone brought up in the Christian world is familiar, but with a refreshing new angle.
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