Monday, January 21, 2008

The Testament of Gideon Mack

Author: James Robertson

Publication Date: 2006

Category: Literary Fiction

Who'll want to read it? People who don't mind a long tale, love the idea of Scotland, myths and questions of faith.

Point of no return: "... and what exactly Mack had confessed to. 'Quite a lot, for a minister,' Harry said. 'Adultery, for example, and meeting the Devil.' " pg5

Classic line: "I have walked and run through this world pretending emotions rather than feeling them. Oh, I could feel pain, physical pain, but I had to imagine joy, sorrow, anger. As for love, I didn't know what it meant. But I learned early to keep myself well disguised." pg27

What's it all about? On the surface this book is about Gideon Mack, a preacher in the Scottish town of Monimaskit. It's about the events leading up to Gideon's meeting with the Devil and what happens afterwards. Gideon narrates most of the book in the form of his 'testament', but insight is delivered in a prologue, written by the testament's fictional publisher, and an epilogue, covering "interviews" with the townsfolk of Monimaskit.

For me, the book raises more questions than answers about "what it's all about". I'm left concluding that it's about issues of face value, identity and reality - the clash between what we think is real and what other people think is real. How people only see facets of each other, yet interpret their whole being in the context of their own beliefs.

While most of the book deals with thoughts and feelings it also includes descriptions of the wild and beautiful landscape in which the events take place. The references to Scottish folklore were also enjoyable and added layers to the supernatural theme.

I liked this book, but there was no instant gratification. Sometimes I found it slow-going, but it was worth finishing and I still find myself thinking about it, and how I have no idea which narrator to trust.

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton

Take a look at this link and you may be intrigued enough to read the book.

It has been nominated by three libraries for the 2008 International IMPAC Literary Award.

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