Book Reviews


Christine Blake: Woman Redeemed.
5 stars

Christine Blake: Woman Redeemed.

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Title: Woman Redeemed.
Author: Christine Blake
ISBN: 978-1-4327-1583-0
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Pages: 271

This story is only half about Mary Magdalene. The other half is about Mary Magdalene and Jesus. And the two halves of the story are very different in emphasis.

Splendidly edited by Monsignor G Shroeder, the story itself is researched to an incredible degree. Christine Blake is Mary Magdalene for the first half of the book. The book is written from the first person perspective in the detail of clothes, habitat, family, culture transport, experiences and so on. Any experiences that Mary had had Christine writes about. It's tremendous. The reader literally gets the impression that Mary has actually written this book herself. And Christine Blake writes that way deliberately. She uses the Jewish tradition of recollected storytelling in order to literally recreate the past in the present. It's a splendid achievement.

As we now know, the first half of the story is Mary Magdalene's "autobiography." And the second half of the story, (after Mary meets Jesus,) is comprised largely of gospel stories with which we are all familiar: Jesus turns water into wine, he turns over the tables in the temple in Jerusalem on the Feast of Passover, he raises Lazarus from the dead and gets crucified. The difference between the stories from the second half, with which we are already familiar, and their usual renditions is that they're retold from Mary's perspective. They're personalised. And yet they're extremely familiar.

From the extent of her research, which Christine Blake itemises in bibliographical form at the end of her book, it is clear that she is aware of the fact that in legend (and in various scriptures) there are an enormous variety of Mary Magdalenes. For example Mary's name wasn't even Mary. And Magdala was a place who the biblical character was named after. Christine Blake is completely aware of all of the controversies (sometimes extremely bitter ones,) about who Mary Magdalene was and what she was. And she avoids being dragged into them. Regardless of the fact that Christine has studied the scholarly arguments and debates, she chooses to pick helpful pieces of information from them regardless of which position a scholar takes.

I was spellbound by this story. The idea of actually walking down the street in fishing village of Magdala with Mary and her father was very new to me. There are a wealth of experiences of Jewish trading, (and some domestic cruelties which Mary's culture appeared to excuse or encourage,) which, having been told from such a personal perspective, can not fail to fascinate, I'm sure.

My recommendations for this story:

In view of the fact that the second half of the story relies so heavily on and repeats so many well-known gospel tales I would recommend this story very highly, primarily to active Christians. However, anybody can read it, and I believe that anybody ought to read it. But, whoever reads it needs to know that it is heavily structured, at least in its second half, by Jesus' miracle workings, his preachings his relationships to his disciples and so forth.

Review by Patrick Mackeown, March 2008


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