A provocative new picture of the “historical” Jesus.

BEYOND THE OLIVE GROVE

VOLUME TWO OF THE MAGDALA TRILOGY: A SIX-PART EPIC DEPICTING A PLAUSIBLE LIFE OF MARY MAGDALENE AND HER TIMES

Longley’s historical novel is the second volume of an extrapolation on the origins of Christianity.

The German critic Erich Auerbach famously writes that the Bible is “fraught with background”—it withholds more truths than it reveals. As much can be said of the gospels, and a variety of modern writers, from Norman Mailer to Robert Graves to José Saramago, have composed fictions intended to fill the gaps in the biography of Jesus. Longley joins their ranks with his Magdala Trilogy, a multivolume set designed to deliver a literary portrait of first-century Palestine made clearer in the light of new historical, textual and archaeological research. This book focuses on the adulthood and ministry of Jesus—here identified in the Aramaic as Joshua—and seeks to develop a believable profile of the man who started Christianity. In Longley’s version, Joshua shares the stage with Maria (Mary Magdalene), a Jewish prostitute and Jesus’ intimate, and Linus, a Roman soldier and the father of Maria’s son Marcus. Longley’s panoramic view of Joshua’s life benefits from the findings of the Jesus Seminar, a group of 20th-century scholars devoted to developing a more accurate understanding of the “historical Jesus”—the man apart from the myth. As such, Joshua is more man than God, though he remains holy. He is married and widowed; he loves, and has sex with, Maria; his miracles—and the miracles that seem to follow him—are more figurative than literal. But despite these elaborations, alterations and fabrications, Joshua remains a blessed figure and a hero. Longley’s volume is scrupulously researched but endlessly creative. Further, its historical Maria and its fictional Linus are worthy foils to the still-strong Joshua. (By book’s end, Maria is the novel’s real heroine.) And the author’s prose is lush and confident, though he writes with a sense of humility appropriate to one recalibrating scripture.

A provocative new picture of the “historical” Jesus.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2009

ISBN: 978-1440178900

Page Count: 467

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • New York Times Bestseller

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

more