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The Tongues of Men or Angels Paperback – 5 Feb 2015

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Paperback, 5 Feb 2015
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Corsair (5 Feb. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1472102231
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472102232
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,234,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


a committed attempt to compare the harsh reality of Jesus's life with the embroidered versions that spread following his death... This is a story that invents in order to see through invention (the Independent on Sunday)

Trigell's fourth novel is a high-octane take on the post-Crucifixion schism that emerged between Judaism and Christianity amid the brutality of Roman rule. Written with an inventive wit and verve, this is an impressive distillation of the Christian myth in the earthy poetry of the everyday vernacular; his portrayal of the Crucifixion is particularly visceral... a bravura and original performance. (the Mail on Sunday)

The Tongues of Men or Angels is Jonathan Trigell's bold attempt at an ironic, modern retelling of the events surrounding the crucifixion and Paul's subsequent evangelising of his version of Jesus's message ... an ingeniously structured, lively narrative of the birth of Christianity. (The Sunday Times)

Trigell's version is ingenious and riveting. He is brilliant in his recreation of the visceral baseness of being human; this is a Judea mired in dung and blood and superstition. (The Times)

Trigell has researched his subject thoroughly and fairly, and is able to reinterpret events in an interesting light... a lively, engaging, ambitious, nuanced and thought-provoking novel (The Work Shy Fop)

The settings and events are described in such muscular yet sensuous language that you almost feel you're there. (The Historical Novel Society)

This daring novel tells the story of Jesus and his followers in the years leading up to and following the Crucifixion. Trigell's interpretation of the origins of Christianity, particularly the factional struggle between the disciple Cephas (Peter) and the convert Saul (Paul), will spark controversy, but there's no denying the raw power of the writing. (Mail on Sunday, paperbacks of the week)

Trigell is a very good writer - and also knows his text inside out. This really helps, because it gives him a very rich support cast: Philemon's slave is a fictional triumph, really well fleshed out from the scanty available evidence... It underpins what must be Trigell's greatest achievement: he has created a Saul/Paul (with back-story, complexity, real psychological depth) who might actually have written the epistles - welding that extraordinary mixture of commitment, self-righteousness, touchy insecurity, surprising moments of sweetness, and mystical passion into a single coherent character. (Church Times)

This ambitious book by Jonathan Trigell captures the battle for the soul of the early church ... the best of it ranges from thought-provoking to stunning. Trigell is superb on capturing the blood, dung and superstition of Judea in the 1st century AD. (The Times) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

Who was the man we know as Jesus? In The Tongues of Men or Angels, award-winning Jonathan Trigell performs an act of literary resurrection.

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Top Customer Reviews

By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Oct. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Trigell's novel Jesus was a hardcore Jewish messiah, a strict observer of the Law intending to free the Temple of the Abomination therein. He has nothing (or very little) to do with the radically different figure usually perceived today. The story of how he is seen stretches from before the Crucifixion to many years after, and it dots about in time (an annoyance to some but not to me). Into this story of simple folk comes the much more complex Saul/Paul, a man rejected and undervalued to such a point he invents his own religion moving far from its origin into something much more effective and much less Jewish.

Since we know so very little of events that led to Christianity assuming its modern form a historical novel can have a great deal of fun seeking to join what few dots we have. Trigell is clearly not a fan of Paul, dropping very large hints about the Jesus:Attis and Jesus:Mithras similarities (though Mithras seems a bit early for a young Saul). His view of the Sanhedrin is much more positive than often is the case, and Pilate makes a swift and effective appearance in a Mel Gibson description of the Passion. I suspect many modern readers will lack the knowledge of the authorised version and thus miss the subversion practicised by the author.
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Format: Hardcover
There have been quite a few reimaginings of the bible in the last few years: this is a contemporary engagement with the early strivings of Christianity that takes a political and historical approach to the religious story. The tale is fragmented around the crucifixion and is counted down in terms of the days, months and years before and after without tackling the event itself. This serves to decentre the religious symbolism while never erasing it, a difficult balance to strike which Trigell manages well.

The politics of the time and region, and of Christianity itself, are given prominence, raising questions (again) of whose story, and what’s at stake in such storytelling, is to take historical prominence – a theme that was also productively explored in Naomi Alderman’s The Liars’ Gospel (2012).
The characterisation is not always particularly subtle or complex and this is less controversial than Toibin’s The Testament of Mary – all the same, this is worth reading.

(I received a review copy via Netgalley)
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Format: Hardcover
I am a big fan of Mr. Trigell, he is a very talented writer who clearly spends many months researching each book, before diligently writing one! This book is nothing like his other books, telling this time the story of early Christianity and how it was developed by Saint Paul (not one of the original apostles) as a religion for gentiles - i.e.. all non Jews as opposed to Peter and James (two of the originals) who saw it as a religion of the Jews "The Way". I'm no expert in early Christianity, but I guess having been brought up in Anglican environment I have familiarity with the story it tells, and it tells it well! Don't get me wrong, this is no religious tract, nor a work of historical record, nor a pro or even an anti Christian rhetoric. Just a very good book about a turbulent world of 2,000 years ago and the blossoming of a new way of thinking that became the Christianity we know today. The books jumps around a little in time zones, but this comes together well towards the end by which time you know all the characters well. Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As part of the 'faction' genre, I was looking forward to reading this and it is a good book without being a great one. In the first sections while setting out the characters the timeline moves around quite a lot and it only becomes apparent why later in the book. Consequently I found it a little difficult to follow at first. Stick with it as it does get better and some of the 'facts' are interesting, so a different angle.
Also a little offputting is the switching between modern and semi ancient language, but again I got used to that.

Certainly worth a read, but could have been better.
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Format: Kindle Edition
“The death of a single man will never change much…”

This is the story of the – often painful – birth of Christianity, told from the point of view of a host of characters and ranging in time from twenty years before the crucifixion to sixty two years afterwards. Characters range from the central ones of Yeshua (Jesus) himself, Cephas “the rock” (Peter) and Saul (Paul) to runaway slaves, bored noblewomen and Pontius Pilate. Useful is a runaway slave who is urged by Paul to write his story and, indeed, much of his life will be known to us. Yet, the author takes history and helps make it feel as though we are there. From the dirt and dust on the roads, to the way purple dye is manufactured, to snobbery and status, the divisions between the poor and rich, there is a real glimpse of this long ago world and what mattered to the people who lived then.

Much of this book deals with the divisions between Peter and Paul; particularly the way that Paul feels his vision of the faith if the true one. Of course, we have Paul’s famous conversion on the way to Damascus, compared to Peter being a disciple who actually knew Jesus, the man. Interestingly, although Jesus himself is central to the story – the whole book hinges on the crucifixion itself – it is other peoples interpretations of him and his message which drives the story on. Peter was obviously compelled to leave everything to follow Jesus, but his return to a group of baleful, hungry children and a mournful wife, helps show the reality of what was asked of the disciples. Likewise, did Paul’s personal resentments and circumstances cause him to be welcoming of change or were the voices he heard simply delusions? This will be a controversial novel I feel.
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