The Liars’ Gospel by Naomi Alderman is a “creative” retelling of life in Israel under Roman occupation and early on centers on Jesus. Alderman’s crafting of words is superb so it’s quite disappointing that she put her talent to work slandering a public figure in such an offensive manner.
In the novel we are exposed to the viewpoints of Mary, Barabbas, and Judas as imagined by Alderman. I can get behind historical fiction wherein we take a real place or course of events to set the scene and slide in imaginary characters to build a plot. Likewise I enjoy a twist on a known public figure that shows another side of them that is faithful to their overall historical presence but adds a new dimension of storytelling. But I really have a problem with a convenient retelling that absolutely butchers the essence of a character we’ve come to know through history. Jesus punching his father in the face and the other nonsense that goes on in The Liars’ Gospel is disgusting and the character sketch of Jesus as depicted by Alderman is very offensive to not only Christians but to the record of history. What’s next, a historical novel about Ghandi detailing his secret role as a fascist, working undercover for the state to stir up insurrection and justification for his friends in power to destroy the people? Perhaps a creative retelling of the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King recast as a drunkard and adulterer whose main focus was becoming famous and having a movie made about himself? Or we could approach it from the other direction and spin a moving story of Hitler and how he was deeply misunderstood?
I’ve read other reviews in a similar vein (thus my voice ads to the chorus) and so I know what’s next: cue the godless hoards on Amazon to leave argumentative comments on this review and attack my coverage of the novel.