...Mawer has miraculously mingled the best attributes of Graham Greene and James Michener...a breathtakingly subtle literary style...
...establishes Simon Mawer as a world-class novelist...his use of the novel to explore social , political, intimate and religious history reveals the power of this genre...
Christian Science Monitor
...beautifully rendered prose. Clean and straightforward, it is incredibly nuanced in capturing the emotional response to faith, love and sex.
A crisis of faith is at the heart of this fascinating, thoughtful literary thriller revolving around the discovery of a manuscript written by the historical Judas. Father Leo Newman, close to middle age, is a scholar living in Rome, teaching English to make ends meet, when he is sent fragments of some first-century A.D. scrolls to decipher. The text seems to be the earliest version so far of the New Testament, the first eyewitness accounts of Jesus's life to be discovered. But Newman is distracted from his studies by his growing attachment to a married woman, Madeleine Brewer, and by mounting doubts about his vocation. A family tragedy in the distant past haunts him, too, and flashbacks to his mother's experiences in Rome during WWII alternate with the present-day narrative. Summoned suddenly to Jerusalem when a particularly exciting papyrus is unearthed, Newman finds himself confronted with what seems to be a text written by Judas, denying that Christ rose from the dead. It's only when this Gospel of Judas makes its first appearance, like a metaphor come alive, that the whole idea of what it means to be a Judas becomes the subject of the book. It's a hook that Mawer (Mendel's Dwarf, etc.) uses to stunning effect. What Newman, already shaken by the end of his affair with Madeline Brewer, does to that ancient manuscript is the ultimate betrayal in the novel, but as in so many modern interpretations of the crime of Judas, the betrayal is really the outward evidence of an affirmation of faith. Discerning readers will relish Mawer's excellent writing and subtle treatment of potentially over-the-top subject matter. National advertising; 5-city author tour. (May 22) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The idea of a newly discovered fifth gospel particularly by Judas is certainly intriguing, but Mawer spends the bulk of this novel dealing with far more mundane and typical plot lines. When Father Leo Newman, a biblical scholar, is forced into a crisis of faith and sensuality by a requisitely mysterious and attractive woman, it is all too familiar, having been explored in so many other books and films. At times Mawer also suffers from the same excessive love of language and word play as his protagonist, and the novel loses its focus. This complex story, read by Graeme Malcolm, has some fine moments, but the promise of the title is never fully realized. Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Religious mystery, sexual intrigue, and the enigmas of identityall are mingled together in this breathtakingly readable intellectual thriller. The story's symbolic resonance is announced in the very name of its protagonist: Catholic priest Leo Newman, who is sent to Jerusalem to join an international team entrusted with deciphering a newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolla fragment of papyrus purporting to be the story of Christ's martyrdom as observed by his betrayer Judas Iscariot. British author Mawer (Mendel's Dwarf, 1998, etc.) surrounds this central situation with Father Leo's later relationship in Rome with a rootless young woman named Magda Novotna, and with a series of flashbacks to Germany during WWII, and a German woman's adulterous relationship, her "punishment," and her connectionrevealed only in the superb closing pageswith the man who would become Father Leo. For he, like Judas, is a "betrayer"of his vows, and of his close friend Jack, an ailing diplomat, with whose wife Madeleine this fallen "new man" conducts a passionate, guilt-ridden affair. Its abrupt termination, and the violent transformation that awaits Father Leo in the Holy Land, are the high points of a powerfully charged narrative that consistently absorbsand surprisesthe reader. In a very real sense, "the gospel of Judas" is as much Father Leo's own story as it is a mystery unto itself: either an inflammatory "piece of anti-Christian propaganda" or a radical reinterpretation of the four gospels that proves beyond dispute that Christ did not rise from the dead. And, in a stunningly savage climactic irony, it's the apostate priest himself who is seemingly"resurrected." Readers who've enjoyed Arturo Perez-Reverte's sophisticated thrillers won't want to miss The Gospel of Judas. Mawer is rapidly proving himself one of the genre's contemporary masters. Author tour