Compelling story, beautifully told
Hauntingly beautiful in both story and delivery, The Testament of Miriam will remain in your thoughts long after your first reading. Swinfen presents the Roman world of the 1st century with imagery and lyricism so compelling you are swept headlong into a closely plotted revelation of mysteries central to Western culture.
As Miriam nears the end of her life far from her native land, she reviews her early years in Judea, where determined loyalty to family and friends pulled her into events that changed the history of the world. Swinfen’s unique interpretation of these events is so plausible, so logical, that the reader is forced to consider them and, perhaps, to see the early years of Christianity in a new light.
The Testament of Miriam is a book to mull over, to read again, and to embrace for its fine writing as well as its clever and thought-provoking story. It is a book to treasure.
Janemac (Maryland, USA), Online review, January 10, 2010
A thought-provoking and truly absorbing read.
This gripping narrative is based on the premise that Yeshûa (Jesus) had a sister, Mariam, a rebellious, fiercely independent and devoted sibling.
In a series of flashbacks, Mariam, now an elderly and dying woman, tells the story of her growing up with her brother, her decision to follow him on his mission and her final witnessing of his death.
It is an extraordinary story operating on both intimately personal and universal levels.
The author’s authentic creation of settings, together with her description of details of day to day life in first century, Roman occupied Judah, bear witness to scrupulous research.
Deceptively simple and direct in style, the narrative has the capacity to engage the reader’s deepest emotions. A thought provoking and truly absorbing read.
Christine Findlay (Scotland, UK), Online review, January 3, 2010
Merging Fact with Fiction
Mixing the known with the fictional and making the resulting story not only believable and compelling but also with an integrity all its own is no mean feat. But in her latest novel, writer and academic Ann Swinfen has taken what has often been called the greatest story ever told…and given it a place, a context in history and in the human heart that opens up a new world of thought-provoking story-telling. The Testament of Mariam is set in the distant world of the first century, in lands that…still do exist, and is a tale peopled by real figures and their fictional counterparts whose lives and times come together to create a compelling vision of what was and what might have been. It also, in its scope and vision, holds up a mirror to the present day and the continuing turbulence of a world in almost continuous transition…Her writing…[paints] an amazingly detailed and vibrant picture of flesh and blood human beings, not only the symbols many of them have become…but real and believable and understandable.
Helen Brown, Courier and Advertiser, December 18, 2009.
Engrossing and Moving
I had a little difficulty in obtaining a copy of this book, none of my local bookshops had it in stock, but Amazon came to the rescue! I admit I was curious as to how the author, in writing about a very human Yeshûa (Jesus), would deal with Biblical events such as the miracles. But it all fell wonderfully, believably, into place. I had read about Jesus allegedly spending time with the Essene community of Qumran where he would have learned medical skills – does this mean the curing of the sick, the blind, the leper were acts of a physician, not miracles? – you decide.
As the dying Mariam, sister of Jesus, goes back over past events in the far-off Galilee where she grew up in a large family, you feel that you are living this well-loved story from a totally different perspective, but that is not to say that you are ever asked to abandon your faith in Jesus the Son of God. It is just that you see Him as a man who has fears, doubts and misgivings, which only serves to make His final sacrifice more precious. The novel resonates with love, the love Mariam has for a brother she has always known to be special, the love of Yehûdâ (Judas) for his friend (I have always believed that the Betrayal was not of Judas’ design) and Yehûdâ’s love for Mariam, the love of the woman they called The Magdalene, and the love of the disciples for their Master, and of course, the love above all other of Jesus for mankind.
The author herself says that this book is primarily a novel, which it is, and it is not, therefore in any way ‘preachy’ but the research has clearly been very well done.
This is the first work I have read by Ann Swinfen and it has inspired me to seek out her other novels.
I enjoyed The Testament of Mariam immensely and would certainly recommend it to other readers.
Mrs S M Wood (Wolverhampton, UK), Online review, January 21, 2010
Don’t miss this amazing book–narrative writing at its best!
The Testament of Mariam by Ann Swinfen is a brilliantly imagined first person account of New Testament events in which the narrator offers a uniquely loving eye-witness view of familiar biblical events as they unfold. Mariam’s “testament” comes from the perspective of unwavering love forged in childhood – a love of such depth and power in the telling that her words and thoughts are not only moving but very credible.
Carefully researched details of time, place, culture, and daily life are fascinating, and provide a strong sense of immediacy, of living in the moment, adding greatly to the reader’s understanding of happenings, as love, loyalty and friendship are tested to their very limits.
This is narrative writing at its best – captivating from the first sentence. The words flow with grace, beauty, and exquisite imagery as Mariam’s thoughts and emotions from childhood to old age are tenderly and convincingly wrought in prose that is often poetic and crafted to perfection. Mariam’s story draws the reader to her with its momentum towards fresh and plausible explanations, shedding light on a centuries-old puzzle.
Carol Patterson (Annapolis, Maryland, USA), Online review, December 20, 2009
A Fascinating New Book
She writes with passion and the book, her fourth, is shot through with brilliant description and scholarship…[it] is a timely reminder of the harsh realities, and the daily humiliations, of the Roman occupation of First Century Israel. You can almost smell the dust and blood.
Peter Rhodes, Express and Star, December 10, 2009.
At last a book which gives depth to its characters. Extremely well researched, not only an enjoyable read but educational too! A rare find.
L. Morrison (Angus, Scotland), Online review, December 28, 2009
The Testament of Mariam
I enjoyed this very much, and in particular I found the characters and the settings very powerfully realized.
The writer combines meticulous research with great imagination, and I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone looking for a novel which is both very gripping and extremely moving.
Rosalind Winter (Cornwall, England), Online review, December 13, 2009
Historical writing at its best
Telling a story that’s already familiar to most of us – in this case the life of Jesus – is a challenge for any writer. However, Ann Swinfen offers a different level of engagement with events by viewing them through the eyes of Mariam, a fictional sister of Jesus. The world Mariam inhabits is evoked in utterly convincing detail which can only be the result of a prodigious amount of research though it’s woven so skilfully into the narrative that that thought never consciously occurs. You simply can’t believe that the writer hasn’t been there and done that!
‘Non-crime reader’ (Scotland), Online review, January 4, 2010
The Testament of Mariam
Okay, I got hold of this book because Ann Swinfen sent a copy to my daughter to thank her for the cover artwork. I picked it up, and even with the Christmas disruption, I am nearly halfway through it.
It is a lovingly crafted story of Mariam, the sister of Christ, and her witness to his life. It opens up a wealth of beautifully described family encounters, then, occasionally, without warning the pace slows to allow a meditative, almost poetic reflection on what has taken place. Those moments send shivers down my spine.
You may ask, am I being premature, extolling a book I have only half-read? Maybe, maybe not. But if the rest is like what I have read so far, then bring it on Ann! … It is a book that should grace the shelves of many a home where good reading is valued.
Joe Harding (Gloucestershire, England), Online review, December 29, 2009