Friday, July 13, 2012

Quarantine - A Book Review

Jim Crace's 1997 novel, short-listed at the time for the Booker Prize, looks at a group of people who take on the demands of a period in the wilderness as part of their spiritual cleansing. It is set at the time of Jesus and includes a character thus called and nicknamed 'The Gally.'

Crace gives background to Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, not so much putting flesh on the bones of this scanty biblical story as allowing it to fall off. On the way we meet a group of merchants and their practices and we observe the appalling way women, and animals, were treated. There is some wonderful prose as the desert's harshness is displayed to us. I felt thirsty as I read.

The story may catch you out. It is a novel. It may not end as you would like although there is some ambiguity built in for those who like to keep their sacred stories just that. Cruel, unremitting and yet beautiful. The Bible comes to life in these pages.

My copy was £1.99 from a charity shop and includes a note saying 'For Steve'. I cannot recall if it was a gift or a loan. Tell me if it is yours and you want it back, please.

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