The Liars’ Gospel by Naomi Alderman – Book Review

The Liars’ Gospel by Naomi Alderman
Published by Little, Brown, an imprint of Hachette

It has been a year since Yehoshuah, the man who would later be known throughout the world as Jesus, was crucified by the Romans. His death has changed many of those who came in contact with him during his relatively short life, but perhaps not exactly in the way that one might think.

The Liars’ Gospel is not a religious book. In fact, it really isn’t even about Jesus, either the historical figure or the religious one. The real heart of the novel is the political situation of  Roman-occupied Judea. Yehoshuah’s mother, who effectively not seen her son since he began his ministry, finds herself harboring a fugitive whose town attempted to make a stand against the Romans. Ichuda finds himself lost in more ways than one – not only has he lost what faith he once had, but he has left Judea and is assumed by all there to be dead. The High Priest of the Temple, Caiaphas, admits that he is essentially a collaborator, but justifies his actions by telling himself that he simply wishes to keep peace. Finally is Bar-Avo, the man who was in mail at the same time as Yehoshuah and escaped only by manipulating Pilate and sealing Yehoshuah’s fate.

Told in four chapters, from the four points of view, The Liars’ Gospel is almost more a series of linked novellas than a proper novel, but it does not suffer from this format. By seeing 1st century AD life from the point of view of a mother, a former believer, a priest, and a freedom fighter, the reader begins to see just how oppressive the Roman rule of Judea may have been. This was a troubled period, and The Liars’ Gospel is full of the massacres of an occupying army attempting to subjugate a devoted people.

The Liars’ Gospel is crafted beautifully, a completely engrossing read that I found myself unable to put down. Very highly recommended.

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