The latest book from the Philip Pullman stable, being called in certain quarters as the Gospel according to Philip.
The plot is based on an innovative concept - that Mary gave birth to twins - Jesus and Christ. In Philips narrative Jesus starts out as the mischievous one, getting into trouble which his quiet, academically oriented brother Christ keeps getting him out of. But then Jesus goes into the wilderness and returns as a preacher and Christ follows him around discreetly chronicling his words and deeds and yet giving a "twist" to the tales to make for better reading. And these twists are what are commonly accepted details today.
Pullman draws on various sources and uses commonly accepted "facts" and twists them around in this book. It is an insight into how details "might" have changed in the re-telling.
For eg: the miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana is offered a possible explanation of Jesus shaming the chief steward into producing the wine that he had hidden away to sell on the side.
While staunch Christians might find the book blasphemous, Pullman disclaims the book with "This is a STORY" in a large Gold font on the back.
The writing style is extremely simple and may come as a shock for those who enjoyed the complicated storylines and concepts of his Dark Materials Trilogy. The book makes for extremely easy reading with short simply written chapters.
Pullman also finds time to denounce the current child abuse scandal being faced by the church in the words "prayed" by Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. For me, it is this chapter written as a monologue of Jesus - trying to communicate with God - that holds the crux of the book. The whole point of writing this book, seems to be concentrated in this chapter.
As someone who was brought up on the Bible and has read up on the beliefs of the orthodox churches too, it was very easy to correlate all the incidents and compare them to their "original" tales. I would be interested to hear from someone who is not that well versed with the "original material" who has read this book. Did you find it confusing? Did any of the tales seem irrelevant?
Also published on desicritics.org