‘I tried to see his face as he screamed in pain, but…I saw no-one I recognised’
The Testament of Mary is a relatively short novel, especially when compared to other monsters on the Booker shortlist. It has just become very relevant again, with Fiona Shaw getting consistently high reviews at the Barbican with the theatre version. The story is a simple one and with the signifiers ‘Mary’ and ‘Testament’ in the title, a pretty obvious one at that. However, don’t expect angels, demons or any immaculate decorating let alone conceptions. It explores a snippet in time of the pain of the Madonna without her holy trappings. Mary is left broken and alone in a darkened room in Ephesus, left to consider how she arrived here. She looks back at the events of her son’s life that have led to this isolated end to her existence, visited by his followers whom she neither trusts nor respects. It ends with a stripped back, honest re-telling of one of the most glorified executions written into history.