Style over substance? Colm Tóibín and ‘The Testament of Mary.’

Ever since I read ‘The Master’ by Tóibín, I have been amazed by the exquisite craft of this poetic writer. ‘Brooklyn’ was another revelation. Other novels of his I admired too, particularly ‘The Blackwater Lightship.’ I am still disappointed that I haven’t read ‘The Heather Blazing.’ The book you read after a Tóibín frequently seems clunky; the prose reads poorly in comparison.

However, I must confess I was a little disappointed by ‘The Testament of Mary.’ Firstly, it is so short that you barely have time to sink into the narrative. Secondly, the majority of the characters are depicted without much depth at all. Thirdly, there is little that surprises the reader in what is an odd book- the bulk of the story is known. 

Superficially, it seems that the author has taken a risk with this book because of the controversial subject. However, I am not so sure. I feel that Tóibín needs to come up with something more complicated in the future if he is to achieve more than he has already. Nonetheless, the brief tale was enjoyable and the trademark prose bewitched again.


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