Book #40

The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson

A son of the manse, Mack has grown up in an austere and chilly house, dominated by a joyless father. Unable to believe in God, he is far more attracted by the forbidden cartoons on television. Father and son clash fatally one day and it may be guilt which drives Mack to take up a career in the Church. This minister, who doesn't believe in God, the Devil or an afterlife, one day discovers a standing stone in the middle of a wood where previously there had been none. Unsure what to make of this apparition, Mack's life begins to unravel dramatically until the moment when he is swept into a mountain stream, which pours down a chasm before disappearing underground. Miraculously Mack emerges three days later, battered but alive. He seems to have lost his mind however, since he claims that while underground he met the Devil.

I had been looking forward to this one. It had been recommended to me by at least two people, perhaps more, so I had very high expectations. I did enjoy it, but I think perhaps I didn't quite understand where things were going because of my limited knowledge of religion.

I really liked that the book was a manuscript written by the main protagonist before his death. The manuscript had been dug up by a publisher who was looking to make it into a book, and so we are allowed both Gideon's views, and also the views of an outsider. For this reason, though, we are told from the off exactly what the macabre ending will be, and this ruined the whole thing for me somewhat.

I did love Gideon. He really appealed to me, mostly coming across as sweet and vulnerable at times. I found myself completely supporting him and his decisions, which seemed strange at times because his decisions tended to be quite risqué. I am still not entirely sure what attracted me so much to this man in the first place.

I also really liked that the story was set in Scotland, fairly local compared to other books I read, and also that some parts of it were written in Scottish dialect. There was even a section with some helpful translations, and I felt considerably smug about not having to use them.

The epilogue consisted of the publisher interviewing characters who had appeared in Gideon's manuscript. I felt there was so much potential here to uncover some secrets, or tie up some loose ends, but not much was given.

I think there may have been a few messages in here about religion, beliefs and morals, but I've missed them entirely. I am a complete dunce when it comes to Christianity, not to mention other religions, so it is highly likely that I have missed some sort of great hidden symbol implanted somewhere in the novel.

Although I read through it quite consistently, I never really felt that I was being pulled into the story enough. I actually feel a bit depressed when I think about the story in general; it's definitely not a happy book. I'd recommend it to anyone with interests in religion or Scottish literature, but for those who are looking for something a bit more supernatural, like me, my advice would be to give it a miss.

40 / 66 books. 61% done!