Engaging and intelligent fiction that celebrates one of Christianity’s great women.

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MARY, CALLED MAGDALENE

George (Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, 1992, etc.) again brings a historical figure to life, this time in a low-key but persuasively feminist take on the early disciple who found Christ’s empty tomb.

Though actual documentation of the life of Mary, the woman from Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, is scanty, George has done enough homework to make her role in early Christianity credible. Her Mary is not only the woman of the Gospels but also a preacher, healer, and confidante of Jesus, with whom she shares her troubling prophetic dreams. From her early childhood, when the story begins, Mary is bright and thoughtful but subject to strange dreams. Intimations of her future begin when, at seven, she goes with her family to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. She picks up a carved ivory figure from the ground where the family is camping and hides it among her possessions. On this same expedition, she also meets and is impressed by the young Jesus and his mother Mary, also attending the festival. Mary Magdalene grows up, still haunted by dreams, but as she nears marriageable age, she is increasingly troubled by voices, skin lesions, and odd movements in her room. Being wed to Joel doesn’t help, and, frightened that the hidden idol is responsible, she confesses her fears to him. When none of the prescribed cures work, the young woman, despairing, heads to the desert, and there, listening to John the Baptist, meets Jesus. He exorcises the demons and the story goes on to tell how she joins Jesus (after being expelled by her family) and begins healing and preaching with the disciples. In relating the events leading to the Crucifixion, and the years afterward, George suggests that Mary loved Jesus not only as the Messiah but also as a man.

Engaging and intelligent fiction that celebrates one of Christianity’s great women.

Pub Date: June 10, 2002

ISBN: 0-670-03096-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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