Despite rave reviews in the press, I found this incredibly disappointing in that while there is a mass of detail, there is very little analysis or discussion; one anecdote after another, in wobbling piles, most of which are familiar from other, earlier works. By page 200 I was wondering why we should care. Rubin seems to think the stories don't need contextualising, but they clearly do. Rather than digging to their heart, the tone is that of an anthropologist on Mars, with these strange little medieval people running around. There is better stuff about. Caroline Walker Bynum is a much much better guide to those very same strange little people and their stories. And Marina Warner's elegant, incisive Alone of All her Sex is by no means superseded by this ponderous, unsorted tome.
on 5 April 2010
Goodness. What a book. Filled almost to bursting with facts, references and comparisons, this is perhaps one of the ultimate reference books for those with an interest in she who we call the Virgin Mary.
The book is sensibly laid out (chronological), and starts with the gospels (notably the Protogospel of St James) and the main text finishes around 1660; a finishing chapter titled "After Mary: a conclusion" deals with the modern reception of Mary.
One irritation is that facts are mentioned almost fleetingly and yet so often, that one spends half one's time in the (excellent) bibliography, and then searching images and references online. This is a book that is crying out for an exhibition, with images and literature references on display.
That said, those references which Rubin cleverly chooses to expand further (notably examples of hymns/devotional texts) offer a glimpse into the clearly enormous wealth of material available to those who wish for more; perhaps a anthology of Marian texts could be next.
on 15 January 2012
A good book in the style of a reference book. Well written and brilliantly detailed - it is a good choice for anyone interested in the way Mary, mother of Jesus has been venerated throughout the ages. If you are looking for a study about Mary herself, this is not the book for you.