Kindly provided through ACR
It is by mere coincidence (or not) that today’s (International Women’s Day) post is about a book about the most famous woman in History: Maria Magdalene.
Daughter of Jerusalem by Joan Wolf, a relatively unknown name for a Portuguese reader, brings us a Bildungsroman with an alternative story about the life of Mary Magdalene. It is a version which sometimes resembles YA style, however that only occurs due to the young age of the protagonist, Mary and caused by the first-person narrator. The reader follows a young girl, whose stepmother is highly jealous of her as a result of her beauty, turning the figure of Mary into a princess from a fairy tale. The father takes her to stay with her aunt Leah, where she is to be taken care of.
These first pages make us believe that Mary may be shaped into a Mary Sue, she is beautiful and far too intelligent for her status. Some people are jealous of her beauty, others adore her and follow her. As she matures with the help of the plot structure, where everything gets worse and worse, her speech varies and she no longer mentions her beauty.
There is a first barrier within that first page that makes it understandable that some readers might not create a fast connection with Mary, as she almost flaunts her dashing good looks and plays the victim part. However from the moment she marries, the plot changes drastically and for a moment Mary has a specific goal: she wants her freedom. From the beginning the goal of the main character is not clear, she goes with the flow and does nothing to change her fate. Although this is understandable as women of that time did not have much freedom, it seems she is always destined to follow men.
There is, however, a phase where it gives the idea that Mary is truly an independent woman. The fact that she is completely far from the “prostitute” image, makes us think that our society is finally mature enough to alter History without falling into extremism.
By the end of the book, the reader will have the idea that the true goal of Mary starts at the end of the story: her goal is to spread the Jesus’ message to the people. She is the one of understands him and always believes in him without even betraying him. History often overlooked that part. While being portrayed as a prostitute, Mary Magdalene followed Jesus until his moment of death and beyond.
It is a nice read, even for people who do not care about religion, as its main focus is towards a figure, a controversial one that can be portrayed as a tragic hero or one of Jesus most fervent follower. Mary Magdalene was a woman, a symbol of men’s overpower for centuries, but now she takes her role in our fiction as the one who should be looked above to and not down.
Not mentioning that I am quite curious about other Joan Wolf’s books and also currently looking forward to read more fiction about Mary Magdalene.