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4.2 out of 5 stars
63
4.2 out of 5 stars
The Liars' Gospel
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on 31 October 2012
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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on 8 October 2017
It is interesting in the reviews to see how this novel has been appreciated by readers of different faiths or, as in my case, none but from a lapsed Christian perspective. The four accounts, echoing the four gospels, but from the point of view of Mary, Judas, Caiaphas and Barrabas have distinct styles and perspectives, fleshing out the turbulent times around the life and death of Christ. I found the representation of the Chief Priests as largely politicians, balancing, with varying degrees of success, the preservation of Jewish tradition with maintaining a fragile peace with Rome, particularly fascinating.
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on 9 October 2017
I loved this. It has inspired me to read and find out a lot more- not about Jesus, but about the Roman occupation of Judea and what led up to the destruction of the Temple, and the internal divisions between the occupied people. Despite this being a retelling of the Jesus story, in many ways that character actually seemed one of the least important in the novel, and I liked that.
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on 24 September 2017
Beautifully written, moving and thoughtful.
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on 5 June 2014
A very powerful story. Familiar but retold in an entirely fresh and surprising way. Engrossing and thought provoking.Well worth checking out
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on 1 May 2017
This was a book group choice and not the sort of book I'd normally read. Having said that, the author, a well educated woman, has her own distinct style and has clearly done a lot of learned research, to enable her to paint a picture of a specific type of Middle Eastern society two thousand years ago. And being Jewish, she gives us an interesting view of the "Holy Family", the Jewish priesthood and the events in Israel/Palestine at a very turbulent time.

We have four books (as with the New Testament Gospels): Mary, Judas, Caiaphas and Barabbas (I'm using the westernised versions of the names). Her style reminded me a bit of that of Kate Mosse, another Oxford intellectual. It meanders a bit and is slightly heavy on occasions. There is also unnecessary sex. I did not find it particularly enjoyable reading. Was this because I'm an Anglican Christian? I hope not. I've heard at least one Jewish rabbinical speaker pointing out that at the time there were lots of wandering preachers around. He gave an
example of one who could well have been selected as Messiah. But instead Jesus was. Was that the "right" choice? Or was he, "yet another
one" (even "a madman"). God knows. But, as of all people, Judas says, "this angry righteous man would change the world". And Naomi
Alderman does not seem to set out to rubbish Christianity, but to make the reader think. No bad thing. It lead me to do a bit of (Wikipedia) research on the subject, and I was interested to note that there were more than a few Biblical scholars, including the last Pope, approaching the subject from differing viewpoints.

At our book group we sometimes discuss whether we should rate books according to their merit or whether we enjoyed reading them. This one gets five stars on the first count and three on the second. I'm surprised that it didn't make at least the long list for the Booker Prize. Perhaps it did? It's that sort of book.
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on 5 November 2015
great product well packed prompt delivery Thanks!
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on 15 May 2017
This is a really interesting novel. Well worth a read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 January 2017
4.5 stars

I'm not a believer in any religion, but do find the origins of them worthy of thought, and love interpretations and stories created from the materials we have.

From four perspectives, this book recreates the world of the first century, where the stories of Jesus were first developed. His mother, Judas, Barbaras and Caiaphas (a high priest) between them tell the story of a preacher who taught and was crucified at the time, but also give a full picture of the brutal life lived by the people at the time, and how Yehoshuah would have fit in, been seen by various people and possibly how the myths grew.

This was an easy audiobook to listen to, well narrated by various voices creating the characters, and the book itself felt fairly considered.

I found the world of Jesus actually more interesting than the account of him: as Alderman paints him, he is a small part of a growing rebellion, his pronouncements cause worship and adoration, as you might expect, but the perspectives of the rebel freed in his place and the high priest who watches him sentenced I found much more fulfilling.

The women of the book show range, some stand out as strong and novel for the time, the men (mostly Jews) are fighting the ruling Roman forces or part of the system, we get a good look at both sides. And it's not white-washed - prostitutes are sought, disease is rife, people are killed in skirmishes.

For someone looking for a human look at the life and times of one man, it's a great read. I don't believe in the myths and legends, so it made a refreshing book to try - a look at how the stories could have developed and why. And what might have happened.

I liked the idea of four perspectives, just one or two wouldn't have offered the glimpses in everyday life and the troubles of the times. Well-created and rounded characters, it reminded me of Pullman's 'The Good Man Jesus' but gave more than that with its multiple narrators.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 April 2013
`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. Like Perseus, he was born of a woman who had never known a man.' And yet, for all this, the book itself does not preclude the possibility of the miraculous, for those who want to read the story in that way.

A masterful tale of faith and politics, this is also a vivid story of life in Jerusalem at the turn of the first millennium.
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