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Booker International Longlist 2023 – The Gospel According to the New World

The Gospel According to the New World

Book 8 – The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé Translated by Richard Philcox

Reviewed by Tracy & Rachel

Synopsis from Booker Prize website: A miracle baby is rumoured to be the child of God. Award-winning Caribbean author Maryse Condé follows his journey in search of his origins and mission.

Baby Pascal is strikingly beautiful, brown in complexion, with grey-green eyes like the sea. But where does he come from? Is he really the child of God? So goes the rumour, and many signs throughout his life will cause this theory to gain ground.

From journey to journey and from one community to another, Pascal sets off in search of his origins, trying to understand the meaning of his mission. Will he be able to change the fate of humanity? And what will the New World Gospel reveal?

Tracy’s Thoughts: I’ve admired Maryse Conde for a long time. I’ve read a few of her books, and have several of them on my shelf waiting for my attention. I adored I, Tituba. That was a masterpiece.

This one was a bit out there. It’s a new, very modern gospel, with a new, modern Christ figure. I struggled with it. I think I expected too much from the title. It would have been a different experience with a different title. It also rambled around in the narrative- I just struggled trying to follow along with what was going on.

Maybe this is one that I will have to revisit after prize season, when I’m not reading on a deadline. I think Conde deserves leisurely reading.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: ½
Total: 12/20

Rachel’s Thoughts: I’ve been curious to read Maryse Condé’s work for a good few years, so I was really pleased this was longlisted. Unfortunately, this might not be the best introduction – I struggled to get through it. I’m just not sure that I ‘got’ what she was intending.

Pascal, a child with mysterious origins and found in a stable, has a life that closely mirrors that of Christ. He, however, is unsure of his purpose in life or how he can make the word a better place. The author’s note describes the book as a gospel parody and a testament to Condé’s faith.

There were lines in here that were really insightful, and Pascal’s love for his island home came through beautifully towards the end. However, parody (as a reader) is difficult! If you’re not connecting with the humour, it’s hard to appreciate the whole. I came away asking Why? Why this story? What was she trying to say? I wasn’t even sure what questions she was asking, so am left a little confused. Unfortunately this just didn’t work for me. I am, however, now even more keen to read some of Condé’s earlier works, to see if I can get a grasp on what I’m missing here.

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality 3/5
Character development 2/4
Plot development 2/4
Overall enjoyment 1/2
Total 11/20

Have you read this one? Let us know what you thought.

Is Mother Dead 19
Standing Heavy 18
Still Born 17.25
Ninth Building 16
Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv 16
Whale 15.5
Boulder 13.5
The Gospel According to the New World 11.5

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