In celebration of the Easter season, we've put together a list of timely fiction reads about biblical times and figures. A wealth of authors have used the bible as inspiration for works from various perspectives. Happy Easter, and happy reading!
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin
Acclaimed Irish novelist submits a novelization of the later years of a figure less historical than symbolic that is readable in one sitting, which brings its brilliance into even finer focus. Mary, the mother of Jesus, sits in uncooperative silence in the ancient biblical town of Ephesus as she is hounded by her son’s apostles, who are desperate for memories she can share with them to aid in their intention to write about Jesus’ life (in what will become the four Gospels of the New Testament). Mary insists that she remembers nothing. The truth is, she is flooded by memories, and with great articulation and introspection, she supplies us with a first-person narrative that will surprise and fascinate readers used to a more traditionally kind and gentle Virgin Mary.
The Liar's Gospel by Naomi Alderman (Forthcoming)
An award-winning author describes the life of Jesus Christ as told by the four people who were closest to him before his death: his mother, his friend Iehuda, the High Priest of the Temple and a rebel named Bar-Avo.
The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra
Set in Italy in 1497, the story is related by Father Agostino Leyre, an inquisitor for the Holy See. Anonymous messages arriving in Rome suggest that something suspicious is going on in Milan, where Leonard da Vinci is finishing The Last Supper. When Leyre arrives in Milan, he is shocked to find blasphemous messages embedded in the artwork: Simon Peter is holding a knife; there's no Eucharist; none of the apostles has a halo. Clearly, Leonardo is incorporating a message into his masterpiece, but what is it? Using various points of view, McCarry dispenses information slowly, and the excitement comes in fits and starts. The primary problems are the lengthy cast of characters and the extensive religious background--especially regarding the Cathar heresy--necessary to understand the story's subtleties. Still, the appetite for religious thrillers continues unabated, and this formidable offering will satisfy more-erudite readers not overly concerned with fast pacing.
Ben Hur by Lew Wallace
Judah Ben-Hur faces a life in the galleys after being falsely accused of trying to assassinate the governor of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus.
John's Story: the last eyewitness by Tim LaHaye
(Jesus Chronicles, book 1; see also: Mark's Story: the Gospel according to Peter, Luke's story and Matthew's Story: from sinner to saint)
Ninety-year-old John, the last surviving apostle, remembers his broken life before befriending Jesus and is called upon to write a gospel that definitively establishes Jesus as the Son of God.
Memoirs of Pontius Pilate by James R. Mills
Ten years after the Crucifixion, history tells us, Pontius Pilate was accused of murder and found guilty by the emperor Caligula. What happened after that is less certain, but Mills has Pilate living out his final days in a relatively comfortable exile. Widowed and lonely, Pilate researches and writes The Memoirs of Pontius Pilate, quite effectively laying out the dilemmas of a Roman provincial ruler dealing with political strife and internecine battles among the Jews, but also offering an account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Mills is rigorous about staying inside Pilate's head as he relates a feisty, entertaining fifth gospel that is a kind of commentary on the other four.
Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George
Born to a well-to-do, religiously strict Jewish family, Mary is a seeker of knowledge. At seven, she finds an idol, and by keeping it, she opens herself to demonic possession. By the time she is married and a mother, she is so tortured by her demons that she flees to the wilderness, where she finds Jesus, who cures her. Mary becomes his disciple, but a married women traveling in a company of men is so shocking that her husband abandons her and her daughter is lost to her for the rest of her life--the sacrifice she must make to be among the kingdom of believers.