The Gospel of Judas - UK reviews

From The Daily Telegraph, 17th August 2005

Mawer's novel is a meditation on what might happen if the events on which Christianity is based were proved never to have occurred, expressed through an intelligent and sensitive character-study. It also conforms to the rule that any novel dealing with long-lost manuscripts must be exciting. And so fascinating is its account of papyrus scholarship that you may find yourself subscribing to [the protagonist's] favourite periodical, Papyrology Today.

Jake Kerridge, reviewing the paperback edition.

From The Times, 16th August 2000:

"Simon Mawer tells a gripping, utterly compelling story. He weaves together the threads of his complex plot with a deftness that keeps the reader mesmerised to the very end of the book. By the time Leo Newman has to take his fateful decision, we are deeply caught up with his dilemma, and swept inevitably along to his conclusions. And like Leo we are left to cope with the awful, unbelieving void of its outcome.
Lisa Jardine

From The Observer, 13th August 2000:

"… the quest for the ultimate truth gives life to Simon Mawer’s characters in his compelling new novel. Leo Newman, a lapsed Catholic priest, is asked to adjudicate on the authenticity of a papyrus scroll…

"… the plot leads, with the inexorability of the best thrillers, to the point where Leo has to decide whether or not to bear false witness to the truth he has discovered. The twists are surprising and genuinely tense. For this is a book in which nothing is quite the way it seems. The question mark of authenticity hangs over every character like a sword…

"There is a great deal in this book. It is part an introduction to papyrological scholarship, part a discussion on the role of witness in biblical history and part a meditation on the nature of truth and authenticity… it is thrillingly readable…

"Mawer has set himself a task of the greatest scope. He has set out to dramatise the question of truth, the most intractable question of all. We end with a piece of kitsch, which is a good pragmatic answer to the conundrum of truth. Why is it, wonders Newman, that magical powers are never ascribed to beautiful works of art? Why do people always see tears in the eyes of worthless pieces of kitsch? The answer is that people find their own truth. The disturbing message we take from this excellent novel is that this might just be as close as we ever get."
Philip Collins

From the Daily Express, 19th August 2000:

...Mawer's poetic language superbly conveys the cloistered world of Vatican Rome and the passion, heat and history that immerses that even more pivotal holy city, Jerusalem...

..this novel develops into a gripping read with a superb dramatic climax. Never a comfortable journey, it reveals the destructive potential of both love and faith.
Laura Kibby



From the Sunday Telegraph, 6th August 2000:

"... Since the unearthing of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, the notion of a text being discovered which rocks the foundations of the Church has become a familiar fictional formula...

Unlike his predecessors, however, Simon Mawer has done his homework and the descriptions of papyrus science in his book are impressively authentic... The archaeological descriptions of Rome and Jerusalem are also well-informed and vibrantly realised.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable and extremely well-written novel: hokum, but first-class hokum."
Matthew D’Ancona

From The Scotsman, 12 August 2000:

"Simon Mawer weaves an absorbing tale of a priest’s faith being put to the test... The Gospel of Judas is intelligent, unusual, and absorbing. It is a straight novel with something of the attributes of a thriller...

"Mawer is a writer of remarkable gifts. His Rome and his Jerusalem are living and vivid characters in his novel. Not only are they described convincingly; they help to form the narrative. They impose their mood on it, and on Leo. More importantly, they serve to establish the authenticity of the author’s inventions… in the end Leo too convinces. The picture of a man brought to the end of what was always a short tether is moving.

This, it seems, is (Mawer’s) fifth novel. On its evidence he deserves to be better known than he is; it should make him so."
Allan Massie

From the Daily Mail, 8 December 2000:

"The Gospel of Judas is a brilliant novel for those like me who want a believeable explanation for the resurrection... Because of Mawer's deep knowledge of ancient scrolls and the language in which they are written, Father Newman (and the reader) accepts the Judas one as genuine. Yet if only what is true in fiction were also in fact!"
Ludovic Kennedy






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