Book: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Canongate Myths #16) by Philip Pullman
Publisher: CanonGate U.S., 2010
Genre: Literature, Historical Fiction
Source + Date Read: Purchased + Feb. 2013
Recommend: For those who love it when authors reimagine/recreate/rethink topics that are taken as truths or universals.
Book Pro’s: It’s a great twist on a universally known historical man and event.
Book Con’s: Style is too Biblical and if you’re not a fan of that, it will drive you nutso.
Ugh, isn’t this so simple and good? When I first saw this though, I was under the impression that the book was a thriller. I read the synopsis after and had to adjust my thinking on the book. It’s a good cover, great even, but a bit misleading maybe?
I have some serious biases and that came between me and this book, which is actually quite good.
First, I grew up in The Bahamas where religion is written into our constitution and a mandatory part of our educational system. Since I was small I was required to attend at least 2 hours of Religious education class, plus mandatory weekend sessions. This culminated in at least 3 hours a week of Bible time, something that drove me very crazy. I came to dislike reading the Bible and anything that was reminiscent of the Biblical style and tone.
As a result, when I pulled out Pullman’s novel I ran into a wall. Written in the same style and tone of the Bible, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ tells the story of Jesus and his twin brother Christ. Jesus was a mischievous boy, loved by many, especially his father Joseph. Christ was a good boy who was doted upon by Mary- so much so that everyone noticed her favoritism towards Christ. Christ, could literally do no wrong, he studied hard and trained to become a religious leader. Jesus, however, got into a bunch of trouble. Yet as Jesus grew he became enchanted with his faith in a way that appealed to people. He preached in a way that attracted many, as he pushed forgiveness and stood against corruption. Here is where Christ messes up, he saw the power his twin brother Jesus had and wanted to use it in a way that they would both find advantageous. This pissed Jesus off and the brothers split. The rest is history really, with Christ following his brothers trials and eventual Crucifixtion. What happens after that is really thoughtful and blew my mind away- it was such a unique twist that I have to give Pullman major props, he engineered a story that many find hard to engineer, reimagine or recreate.
The story itself is ingenious, I enjoyed Pullman’s take on the story of Jesus Christ. It also made me think in anthropological ways, as the book is part of the Canongate Myths series, where authors are tasked with reimagining myths from around the world. Now, I never took the Christian faith as a myth, so its inclusion here is fascinating and needs a separate post dedicated to that altogether.
So why’d I give the book ? I go back to the style or tone of the piece: it mirrors traditional Biblical text a bit too closely. Now, I know that this adds to the authenticity of the piece, which subsequently blurs the line between fiction and reality (which again, mirrors issues with the Bible? Historical text or the greatest piece of fiction ever created?). I found it hard to read, however, and it made me not want to read the piece at all! Yet I persevered because the novel contributes to a healthy dose of questioning and existential crises’.
If it wasn’t for the damn tone of the book I’d have loved it.