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Mary, Called Magdalene (Chivers Sound Library American Collections (Ebook))

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Mary, Called Magdalene is George's most ambitious work yet. Brilliantly grounded in both biblical and secular historical research, it depicts Mary of Magdala in the first hundred years of the first millennium -- even as it peels away layers of legend. Testaments, letters, and narrative convincingly capture Mary's immediate and moving voice as she becomes part of the circle Mary, Called Magdalene is George's most ambitious work yet. Brilliantly grounded in both biblical and secular historical research, it depicts Mary of Magdala in the first hundred years of the first millennium -- even as it peels away layers of legend. Testaments, letters, and narrative convincingly capture Mary's immediate and moving voice as she becomes part of the circle of disciples and comes to grips with the divine. Bridging the gap for readers of Antonia Fraser and fans of The Red Tent, Mary, Called Magdalene transcends both history and fiction to become the "diary of a soul."


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Mary, Called Magdalene is George's most ambitious work yet. Brilliantly grounded in both biblical and secular historical research, it depicts Mary of Magdala in the first hundred years of the first millennium -- even as it peels away layers of legend. Testaments, letters, and narrative convincingly capture Mary's immediate and moving voice as she becomes part of the circle Mary, Called Magdalene is George's most ambitious work yet. Brilliantly grounded in both biblical and secular historical research, it depicts Mary of Magdala in the first hundred years of the first millennium -- even as it peels away layers of legend. Testaments, letters, and narrative convincingly capture Mary's immediate and moving voice as she becomes part of the circle of disciples and comes to grips with the divine. Bridging the gap for readers of Antonia Fraser and fans of The Red Tent, Mary, Called Magdalene transcends both history and fiction to become the "diary of a soul."

30 review for Mary, Called Magdalene (Chivers Sound Library American Collections (Ebook))

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I really enjoyed this book - I had it on my bookshelf at home for several years, lonely and untouched. It was on the "to read" list and somehow never made it higher. I had just finished Red Tent and needed something for the train ride - the library was closed - I found this on my shelf. It starts a bit slow, following Mary as a child, and then gets pretty gripping as she becomes possessed by multiple demons. Once she becomes a disciple, I was impressed at how well the author brought the reader i I really enjoyed this book - I had it on my bookshelf at home for several years, lonely and untouched. It was on the "to read" list and somehow never made it higher. I had just finished Red Tent and needed something for the train ride - the library was closed - I found this on my shelf. It starts a bit slow, following Mary as a child, and then gets pretty gripping as she becomes possessed by multiple demons. Once she becomes a disciple, I was impressed at how well the author brought the reader into Gospel stories with vigor. I will say that it is not "Christian" fiction per se - Margaret George writes historical fiction and I don't know if you would find this a Christian bookstore or not. It's definitely NOT "Left Behind" kind of stuff! So I guess what I'm saying is she does not seem to be writing this story with evangelization in mind, and I think that probably helps her tell the story in a way that will appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike.

  2. 4 out of 5

    ShareStories

    While this is a fascinating book in terms of the historical details of daily life in the first century, I have to disagree with the review in Publisher's Weekly which states that it "imagines nothing seriously objectionable to even the most devout Christians." That isn't true if one counts Catholics as "devout Christians". First of all, the book's portrayal of Mary, the Mother of Jesus is problematic for Catholics. It portrays her as joining Jesus' siblings (another problematic interpretation) i While this is a fascinating book in terms of the historical details of daily life in the first century, I have to disagree with the review in Publisher's Weekly which states that it "imagines nothing seriously objectionable to even the most devout Christians." That isn't true if one counts Catholics as "devout Christians". First of all, the book's portrayal of Mary, the Mother of Jesus is problematic for Catholics. It portrays her as joining Jesus' siblings (another problematic interpretation) in doubting Jesus when he begins his mission, only joining the Apostles later. The other disturbing thing is that Jesus doesn't seem to know he is the Messiah until right before he goes to Jerusalem for the final time. The book seems to go out of its way to portray Jesus as very much "only human". There is no sense that He is the second person of the Blessed Trinity here at all. I will update this when I get to the end of the book. I'm wondering how or if the Resurrection will be portrayed. Update: While the post-resurrection portion was decidedly supernatural (as opposed to walking the line between Jesus as a weird-but-good man and something "more") the entire book was an odd marriage of Fundamentalism and Feminism. Mary Magdalene is portrayed throughout the story as equal to (and in some ways a bit above and apart from) the (male) Apostles. Also, the author seems to make a point of having the Mary Magdalene discuss whether or not Peter has primacy over the other Apostles(one can perhaps guess the answer here)and there is a point near the end where it is declared that the Church "has no doctrine." So, while the book is intriguing, it is in no way in line with historical Christianity as expressed by the Catholic Church.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Neesha

    I truly was disappointed by this book. Fans of the Red Tent will be let down if they decide to read this. First of all, the book is just too dense and the writing is too dry. I know it's dangerous to have too many expectations, but I thought this book was going to bring forward some new twist, a new take on Mary Magdalene's life, and all it did was basically tell the same story from her viewpoint. And a bad job of that, too. The reason I won't give this book one star is because there were some m I truly was disappointed by this book. Fans of the Red Tent will be let down if they decide to read this. First of all, the book is just too dense and the writing is too dry. I know it's dangerous to have too many expectations, but I thought this book was going to bring forward some new twist, a new take on Mary Magdalene's life, and all it did was basically tell the same story from her viewpoint. And a bad job of that, too. The reason I won't give this book one star is because there were some moments I found interesting. Unfortunately these moments were not enough to keep me interested for more than maybe 20 pages at a time. I could barely get through it. If you love the bible stories and want to read them over again, you might like this book. If you are looking for a book about women's lives in the time of Jesus, just read the Red Tent again. It is a far superior book, and actually looks at the lives of Bible women rather than just their relationship to the more well-known Bible men.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Iset

    Margaret George is well-known for her chunkster epics in historical fiction, each focusing on the life tale of one historical figure. Thus far she’s told the stories of the lives of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Kleopatra VII, and Helen of Troy. I’ve only read her works on Henry VIII and Helen of Troy thus far, and thought they were very good and well worth reading. So on the strength of George’s previous books and her skill as an historical fiction author, I decided to read Mary Margaret George is well-known for her chunkster epics in historical fiction, each focusing on the life tale of one historical figure. Thus far she’s told the stories of the lives of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Kleopatra VII, and Helen of Troy. I’ve only read her works on Henry VIII and Helen of Troy thus far, and thought they were very good and well worth reading. So on the strength of George’s previous books and her skill as an historical fiction author, I decided to read Mary Called Magdalene. I knew the subject matter would be about Mary Magdalene, not a topic I had much interest in, however on the strength of George as the author I hoped she would be able to place the story in historical context and tell a compelling, interesting story that would come to life on the pages. Having read it, I didn’t hate Mary Called Magdalene, but I didn’t love it either. It’s another one of those books that just didn’t engage me – for a whole variety of reasons, which shifted as the book progressed. The book is divided into three eras of Mary’s life: her life before she met an adult Jesus, her life as Jesus’ disciple, and her life as an apostle after Jesus’ death. In the first of the three sections I was really drawn in at the beginning. George begins in Mary’s early years, fleshing out a believable background for her, giving her a chance to grow and become established as a personality before she meets Jesus, filling out the setting with wonderful historical detail and creating an immersive experience that felt authentic to the times and explained the times and Mary’s position in it. This had me really turning the pages for the first one hundred pages. Unfortunately, this section begins to go on and on and on, starting to drag over the 282 pages that it takes up. I felt like it went on too long and a hundred or so pages should have been enough to tell us all we need to know before the main story kicks in, when Mary meets Jesus. Just under the next five hundred pages are spent on Mary’s time as a disciple of Jesus. Having checked the stats, that sounds like a lot, and it’s obvious that this section really is the heart of the novel. But it feels so short. Mary and some others wander back to their homes so everyone can announce their intention of joining Jesus, then meet up again, the disciples and Jesus all wander about the remote countryside for a while, occasionally preaching and answering questions from crowds, and then suddenly bam, it feels like Jesus’ mission has barely begun when he decides to go to Jerusalem, and then it felt like a tumbling rush of preaching in the temple, Judas’ betrayal, the crucifixion, and it’s all over. Phew. What gives? I felt like Jesus’s mission had only just begun, and I know some of the anecdotes in the Bible were left out. Some of these left out anecdotes are later mentioned in the novel when Mary, as an apostle, notes certain stories like turning water into wine and calls them parlour tricks and claims they never happened. Okay. But other anecdotes are left out by Mary and not mentioned later. And then some episodes are included that seem like they would fall under Mary’s disdainful definition of a parlour trick, such as the multiplication of the bread and fish. My point is this doesn’t feel consistent and I don’t understand why some episodes are left in and some are left out, there doesn’t seem to be a particular pattern or reasoning at work. In addition, the character of Jesus didn't feel how I would expect - he didn't come across as compelling, or enlightened, or kind. He starts off obviously very knowledgeable and intelligent, and seems kind of mysterious and like he knows more than everyone else. This drew me, and the disciples in the story, in initially. But the initial impression never dissipates or evolves into something more. This character never becomes compelling, he seems nice enough at times but he never seems especially kind, and he seems more quick witted and always with an answer ready on his tongue, prepared beforehand, rather than enlightened as such. I expected to be bowled over by the wisdom of this character, to experience real moments in the book of awe and revelation alongside the disciple characters. But that never happened. And sometimes he seemed strangely out-of-character, such as momentarily spiteful over a petty issue that really should be beneath his dignity, and not very peaceable or love-your-enemy at all. Even the character of Mary is astonished that he should disregard his own teachings and react with such anger and fury. So, for me the core of the story kind of lacked heart. The inconsistency of the miracles mentioned above was confusing, but even more importantly I think the crucial part of any retelling of Jesus is capturing the story of a compelling personage and his radical ideas - more so than the miracles - and George failed to capture that character. There doesn't seem to be much point in a retelling of the Jesus story without that heart. After the core of the book, which covers Mary’s life as a disciple, we reach the final section of the book, Mary’s life as an apostle after Jesus. Astoundingly, this section of the novel covers less than one hundred pages, and Mary skims over events in a series of letters to her daughter. I was left thinking, “is that it”? I would imagine that the early years of the church following Jesus would be some of the most crucial years of all. This was a time after all when this small group was still on shaky ground. Its establishment and growth during this time were crucial events that affected much of the succeeding two thousand years, and there was a strong element of risk that it would fade away and not survive as an established religion. Mary Magdalene’s role and involvement in this early church would have been key, and fascinating. But it’s skimmed over and summarised. I would have thought that this part of Mary’s life would have dual importance alongside her time with Jesus, or at the very least, the unnecessary time spent on the beginning of the story should have been transferred into this part of the tale. The beginning of Mary Called Magdalene really should only have been about 100 pages, whilst the final section of Mary’s life should have been given the full 282 pages. In this section, Mary even refers briefly to some huge events that occur – but in passing only, and the novel really would have been the better for it had these events been given more page space. I haven’t really talked about the writing in the novel because it’s unnecessary, and not an issue. It’s as good and solidly consistent as Margaret George’s other novels. George writes well, though somehow she always misses out on writing of true genius by a hair’s breadth – the writing not imaginative enough, the characters not human enough, the plot just missing that extra something. That said, George is probably my favourite author not inside my inner circle of sheer unadulterated literary perfection – she always writes well, produces decent plots and interesting subject matter, with good attention to historical detail and long enough epics to really get into the subject. Mary Called Magdalene is below the standards of her other works however – usually solid 8 out of 10, or at least a 7 – for other reasons. There are odd pacing issues which make sections of the book feel completely out of sync with their actual length, and which shift the focus onto the wrong parts of the story, to the book’s detriment I feel. The characterisation of Jesus is as good as George’s other characterisations in her other novels, I would say, but it’s so crucial here with such an incredibly famous figure and for me she doesn’t get it right. At the end of the day I think this one is well-written but the story isn’t well told. 6 out of 10.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Leone Davidson

    An excellent novel, mostly fiction because so little historical data exists about the title character, that traces the life of Mary Magdalene, how she became one of Christ's disciples, how integral a part of his movement she was, as evidenced by the fact that she was the first one he showed himself to upon his resurrection, and her life after his crucifixion. Importantly, it leaves out the rubbish about her being a prostitute, an allegation for which there is no historical basis. Margaret George An excellent novel, mostly fiction because so little historical data exists about the title character, that traces the life of Mary Magdalene, how she became one of Christ's disciples, how integral a part of his movement she was, as evidenced by the fact that she was the first one he showed himself to upon his resurrection, and her life after his crucifixion. Importantly, it leaves out the rubbish about her being a prostitute, an allegation for which there is no historical basis. Margaret George is one of my favorite authors, and this is one of her best.

  6. 5 out of 5

    J. Else

    “A woman. A man. God created both. And he wished both in his Kingdom...It is time people become aware that there is no difference, in God's eyes, between them.” – Jesus The story was very compelling despite the fact that its length is quite daunting! I enjoyed the details about Jewish holidays and practices as Mary grew up in Magdala. I liked the development of Mary in the book as well as her relationship with Jesus and the other disciples. I enjoyed how viewpoints of the time shed light on how “A woman. A man. God created both. And he wished both in his Kingdom...It is time people become aware that there is no difference, in God's eyes, between them.” – Jesus The story was very compelling despite the fact that its length is quite daunting! I enjoyed the details about Jewish holidays and practices as Mary grew up in Magdala. I liked the development of Mary in the book as well as her relationship with Jesus and the other disciples. I enjoyed how viewpoints of the time shed light on how history may have remembered Mary. Mary living for a month in the desert with other men on her way home deemed her a prostitute by society, and her family cast her out. Outlooks change, but history does not always record these changes, just the responses of that time. "A decision is not actually made once, but over and over again." – Mary Magdalene I think the struggle to understand Jesus was the most interesting piece of the story. The disciples all had different ways of seeing things. They all were frustrated at times and had doubts. This was especially true for Judas who could not overcome his own cynicism. I wanted the author to spend more time on Judas, and I found his development particularly tragic at the end. George was good at presenting a situation one way, and then bringing in a similar situation later in the book to help the characters understand the different sides of things. Mary’s feelings for Jesus came out, and she was so heartbroken at his answer. Then when Judas asks for her to be his wife, she sees things completely differently and understands that the focus of her life is not marriage but in their ministry. George created good situations in the novel for the disciples to grow. I thought George’s portrayal of Jesus was well-done. His dialogue was beautiful. The quiet, patient nature is one I picture when reading the Bible. "In his extreme old age, he used to come to our church here and say no more than 'Little children, love one another.' His disciples asked why he always repeated the same words, and he said, 'This is Jesus's command, and if this alone be done it is enough.'" – Narrative regarding Saint John Unfortunately, there seemed to be missing pieces to Jesus’ ministry. There was no mention of Him ever raising anyone from the dead; i.e., Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And some of the miracles seemed less profound in the book. The feeding of the 5000 was kind of brushed aside. None of the disciples seemed to have a really strong reaction to what had happened. None of them got excited and talked about the miracle they had just experienced. It’s as if the miracles were commonplace already. I felt a little distracted and confused by all the omissions. The taming of the waters, Jesus walking on water, it seemed like the BIG miracles were glaringly excluded. I tried to figure where Mary might have been for those moments, but time seemed to pass awkwardly in the story. This book is long, immensely long, and while it keeps you turning the pages, the passage of time was not well documented. Time moved rapidly or slowly, and there was no clear pace to things. Dating the chapters would have helped greatly to really place the things that were going on. I was also surprised by how Mary’s best friend was dropped half-way through the book. Mary never attempts to see her when she visits Magdala? There was a lot of time spent in the beginning of the book developing the relationship, and I was disappointed that her friend was forgotten about. It seemed to be a loose end that never was tied together. “…Jesus always saw the eternal in the everyday. He did not divide the two, as we are prone to." – Mary Magdalene George has a beautiful language, and I could feel the character throughout the narrative. This was truly a labor of love for her, and it read that way. I thought the ending was beautiful and touching. It really emphasized the need for love and forgiveness, but also hope that in heaven, Mary and her daughter were reunited for eternity. "May we live in today and never in the future or the past, or come too late to those we love."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ashley W

    Re-read Update: This book was definitely a lot more slow-going than when I first read it five years ago. This is a book that needs to be completely savored, but because of my busy schedule and job, I didn't savor it like I used to and that makes me sad. Next time, I have to read this when I'm not running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Mary, Called Magdalene chronicles the life of Mary Magdalene. She's only mentioned about a couple times in the Bible, but that doesn't stop fiction wri Re-read Update: This book was definitely a lot more slow-going than when I first read it five years ago. This is a book that needs to be completely savored, but because of my busy schedule and job, I didn't savor it like I used to and that makes me sad. Next time, I have to read this when I'm not running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Mary, Called Magdalene chronicles the life of Mary Magdalene. She's only mentioned about a couple times in the Bible, but that doesn't stop fiction writers from writing numerous books about her. Though this book was a whopping 656 pages long (677 on my Nook), I managed to finish it in a couple of weeks. I found this book to be a pretty good story of what might have happened. Way better than the Dan Brown Da Vinci Code, at least historically and Biblically. The characters are believable, especially the character of Mary herself. The author, Margaret George, who also wrote The Autobiography of Henry VIII and Memoirs of Cleopatra, writes Mary as being a precocious child and then a woman who remains to be curious about the world around her. I liked that she wasn't portrayed as a whore, because there is nowhere in the Bible that says she was, though there is a part in the story where her family believes she is. The plot is also very believable. The fact that Mary may have been possessed because of her possession of an ancient idol is very plausible, even though some parts did become kind of creepy. The setting is excellent and George describes the world of Ancient Israel in a way that makes you feel that you're right there in Magdala with Mary, Jesus, and the other disciples, and it definitely makes me want to take a pilgrimage to current day Israel so I can see the places talked about in the novel. The length of the book doesn't take away from the novel at all. I did have to set it down at times, not because I wanted to, but because I'm in college and have to go to class and take showers and other important things, and I will definitely read this book again. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the early Christian church or who just likes to read in general!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Briansmom

    I fully expected to love this book, even though I hadn't previously read anything by this author, because biblical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I did thoroughly enjoy the beginning of the book, which dealt with MM's life prior to meeting Jesus, which I felt was imaginative and believable. The parts about Mary's demon posession were especially moving. However, I never really liked George's Jesus. While MM and the other disciples were enthralled by Jesus, I, as the reader, kept wondering, I fully expected to love this book, even though I hadn't previously read anything by this author, because biblical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I did thoroughly enjoy the beginning of the book, which dealt with MM's life prior to meeting Jesus, which I felt was imaginative and believable. The parts about Mary's demon posession were especially moving. However, I never really liked George's Jesus. While MM and the other disciples were enthralled by Jesus, I, as the reader, kept wondering, "Why?" She never paints a picture that I found that interesting. She protrays Him as a kind, caring person who could be a dynamic speaker and who occasionally healed the sick and casted out demons. But His mission seemed confusing to me and He never really had the conviction that he was the Messiah. I kept waiting on the descriptive passages that would paint a better portait of Him for me, but they never came. Also, there was no mention of Him ever raising anyone from the dead. Glaring omission: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Well this was certainly an interesting perspective on who Mary Magdalene was... a lot of literary license was taken in developing her background, considering she is only mentioned a small handful of times in the actual Bible... the author did her research well though, and did not jump on the "Mary was Jesus' wife" bandwagon, though the entire 2nd half of the book, which was focused on Jesus' ministry, from start to finish, was portrayed so eloquently, and it actually helped me understand things Well this was certainly an interesting perspective on who Mary Magdalene was... a lot of literary license was taken in developing her background, considering she is only mentioned a small handful of times in the actual Bible... the author did her research well though, and did not jump on the "Mary was Jesus' wife" bandwagon, though the entire 2nd half of the book, which was focused on Jesus' ministry, from start to finish, was portrayed so eloquently, and it actually helped me understand things about the Catholic mass that I never knew... LOL isn't that funny??? I would recommend this to anyone interested in history, though its accuracy on Mary's early life is undeniably fiction...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    I can’t say that I enjoyed this book. It was a struggle to finish it. I bought it years ago and had finally gotten around to reading it. While I was reading it, I was wondering “What was I thinking when I bought this?” I had a mild curiosity about Mary Magdalene, but not over 600 pages worth! The book, although told from Mary’s perspective and mainly about Mary, deals a lot with Jesus’ ministry and the birth of Christianity. This is not a subject that interests me at all, so I skimmed through a I can’t say that I enjoyed this book. It was a struggle to finish it. I bought it years ago and had finally gotten around to reading it. While I was reading it, I was wondering “What was I thinking when I bought this?” I had a mild curiosity about Mary Magdalene, but not over 600 pages worth! The book, although told from Mary’s perspective and mainly about Mary, deals a lot with Jesus’ ministry and the birth of Christianity. This is not a subject that interests me at all, so I skimmed through a lot of these sections. There is a lot of repetition in the book, and in my opinion, it could have been shortened by about 200 pages and still have been a good story. But maybe that’s just me and my lack of interest in parts of the book. The book is told with somewhat of a feminist bent, with Mary having a lot of influence as a disciple and apostle of Jesus. She is ahead of her time in not taking a lot of crap from the men. She certainly isn’t the prostitute of legend. (Me thinks the later patriarchy of the church had something to do with spreading this vicious rumor about her.) The book is obviously historical fiction and a lot of “facts” aren’t really known about Mary Magdalene. The author does a credible job of trying to figure out who she was and wasn’t, and then tries to tell a believable story about her by adding some elements to her background. Would I recommend this book? It depends. If you like historical fiction about Christianity, then this may be for you. It just didn’t work for me. Full disclosure: I am Jewish and tend to like books with Jewish themes. This book did have a lot of interesting information about Judaism in the time of Jesus, and how the Jews felt about the growing sect of Christians, but it wasn’t enough to keep me interested.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    For all the promise a book of this scope was, it ended up ultimately being very disappointing. This is not to say that I was offended or found anything blasphemous about the book as a Catholic-Christian. I liked the distinct personalities that George put into the story, though they would all have been better fit into short stories. As a bit of a biblical scholar myself, however, I was dissapointed by the historical inaccuracies of this book- for a book published in the early 2000s I would have e For all the promise a book of this scope was, it ended up ultimately being very disappointing. This is not to say that I was offended or found anything blasphemous about the book as a Catholic-Christian. I liked the distinct personalities that George put into the story, though they would all have been better fit into short stories. As a bit of a biblical scholar myself, however, I was dissapointed by the historical inaccuracies of this book- for a book published in the early 2000s I would have expected there to be better observations of Jewish traditions and Jewish thought, as well as better application of modern biblical scholarship. Hints of Thomas and Mary writing down the Gnostic Gospels themselves is bad fiction, as are any hints of the disciples thinking of writing their own accounts. The apostles in this story often use modern Christian terminology rather than the observant Jewish terminology of their time, and are very much caricatures of what a modern woman or man would have been like if they had been thrust back in history. Not an altogether horrible method, but seeing as I am very familiar with this particular kind of writing in my own faith practices and academic studies, I have seen it done much more skillfully and with a much more believable air. Another thing that I took issue with was the writing style. Rather than a richly detailed description of a long-gone time, as I tend to love in any kind of historical fiction, this heavy book read like a drawn out CCD textbook- more of a devotional thought-practice than an attempt to reclaim a much-maligned Biblical female. I will say that, as a character, George's Mary was relateable and likeable. Just not in the setting that the book claims to be faithfully tackling.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    So I'm not a religious person, and I wasn't all that exited about reading this book, except that I've loved everything else I've read by Margaret George. I know just enough about the Bible to be dangerous and look dangerously stupid...but I was not a fan of this book. I read it for The Next Best Book Club challenge, and I was glad that I finally read it, because I felt like every time I saw it at the bookstore or the library all 600+ pages were staring at me and judging: "you liked the other Mar So I'm not a religious person, and I wasn't all that exited about reading this book, except that I've loved everything else I've read by Margaret George. I know just enough about the Bible to be dangerous and look dangerously stupid...but I was not a fan of this book. I read it for The Next Best Book Club challenge, and I was glad that I finally read it, because I felt like every time I saw it at the bookstore or the library all 600+ pages were staring at me and judging: "you liked the other Margaret George books, you're just putting this one off because of the subject matter!" Turns out I know myself pretty well, BIG surprise! It was really interesting in the first 1/3, when Mary of Magdalene takes a pilgrimage with her family to Jerusalem and becomes possessed by the first of many demons. And then starts a family. But honestly, and I feel bad even saying this, after she met Jesus, it was just SUCH a bore to me. Maybe it's because we all know the story and I always knew how it was going to end? I just wasn't that excited about it. I really would have liked more detail about how everyday people lived their lives in 10-20 A.D. More about jobs, clothing...just everyday life. But it wasn't there. And SO much of the book was just Jesus and his apostles wandering around being ostracized and judged (which i know is WHAT they did and why I'm surprised by this I have NO idea.) So, at the end of the day, I'm glad I read it...and it's over!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    I listened to the first recording of this in 2003 and would certainly recommend Kate Reading's narration from 2013. In an author's note George explains how she used available sources to expand Mary's story; she places her in a prosperous Jewish family involved in the fishing trade in Magdala. On a journey to Jerusalem, the young Mary finds an small idol; she admires its beauty and secretly keeps it. This becomes the source of the demons which beset her and which are finally exorcised by Jesus. S I listened to the first recording of this in 2003 and would certainly recommend Kate Reading's narration from 2013. In an author's note George explains how she used available sources to expand Mary's story; she places her in a prosperous Jewish family involved in the fishing trade in Magdala. On a journey to Jerusalem, the young Mary finds an small idol; she admires its beauty and secretly keeps it. This becomes the source of the demons which beset her and which are finally exorcised by Jesus. She becomes a follower and after his death a pillar of the early church. While this is an intimate, first person account, it is also the Bible story of Jesus's life, told from Mary's point of view in a fresh, albeit feminist perspective. The story moves at a leisurely pace, enriched by details of time and place (geography, religion, culture); the characters are flawed and familiar, with Judas set up as the fall guy early on; the tone is emotionally charged and bittersweet. It makes an interesting companion to Toibin's The Testament of Mary, about Jesus's mother, who also appears in George's novel. Both are intelligent and inspirational novels feature strong women making a place in a man's world.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Haggard

    What a wonderful book this is! Margaret George’s MARY, CALLED MAGDALENE is about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and what happened to his disciples after his death. The book is in three parts. Part One, titled DEMONS tells about the childhood and young adulthood of Mary of Magdala, and how she came to be possessed by demons. Part Two, titled DISCIPLE is the story of the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ. Mary comes in right at the beginning of his ministry when he casts out her demons, an What a wonderful book this is! Margaret George’s MARY, CALLED MAGDALENE is about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and what happened to his disciples after his death. The book is in three parts. Part One, titled DEMONS tells about the childhood and young adulthood of Mary of Magdala, and how she came to be possessed by demons. Part Two, titled DISCIPLE is the story of the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ. Mary comes in right at the beginning of his ministry when he casts out her demons, and stays with him because her family turns her out and she has nowhere else to go. Part Three, titled APOSTLE tells what happened to Mary and the other disciples after the death of Jesus Christ. Margaret George is the kind of writer who can grab your attention and hold it for the entire length of a novel. I thought her characterization of Mary of Magdala, Jesus, Jesus’ mother and the other disciples was intelligent, insightful and interesting. This is not just a rehash of parts of the New Testament. It is a refashioning of the tale that helps to explain why Jesus and his followers acted as they did. I could not put this book down. Five stars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Loved it. As usual, Margaret George both educates and entertains. I always found reading the actual Bible to be difficult...hard to relate to, hard to even make connections about what was being described and how it happened. Even though this is a fictionalized account, George tells a compelling story that gives the factual portions more significance and meaning (for me, at least) and helped make the New Testament stories more accessible. I found the story SO compelling, that I even got the Bible Loved it. As usual, Margaret George both educates and entertains. I always found reading the actual Bible to be difficult...hard to relate to, hard to even make connections about what was being described and how it happened. Even though this is a fictionalized account, George tells a compelling story that gives the factual portions more significance and meaning (for me, at least) and helped make the New Testament stories more accessible. I found the story SO compelling, that I even got the Bible out to read the Gospels to compare the accounts there to the story George told. A real humanizing of the Disciples and of Jesus...George's account helped me see how it might be possible for a group of people to follow a stranger like Jesus...the charisma, the lovingness. Now if only Margaret George could give me fictionalized accounts of the ENTIRE Bible!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pattie

    I am very drawn to Mary Magdalen and have been reading as many sources as possible about her. This book was very well written but for some reason I struggled to actually finish it...hmmm...note to self: figure out what that was about! Xx

  17. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    I can't say I totally agree with this interpretation, but it was a joy and a beauty to read. Utterly engrossing from start to finish - no small feat for a 600-page novel. I would die for Mary Magdalene 4.5 stars

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anne Monteith

    4.5 STARS: Review coming soon.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Caledonia

    I’ll admit that this review is going to be fairly biased because I absolutely adore Margaret George’s books ever since picking up a copy of Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles a few years ago. Mary Stuart is one of my favourite historical characters and Ms George captured her character perfectly. Afterwards, I went straight out and bought her first book The Autobiography of Henry VIII but was disappointed. In fact it is the only one of her books that I’ve never finished and I feel it is mainly I’ll admit that this review is going to be fairly biased because I absolutely adore Margaret George’s books ever since picking up a copy of Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles a few years ago. Mary Stuart is one of my favourite historical characters and Ms George captured her character perfectly. Afterwards, I went straight out and bought her first book The Autobiography of Henry VIII but was disappointed. In fact it is the only one of her books that I’ve never finished and I feel it is mainly due to the fact that I’ve never really been interested in Henry VIII. The third book The Memoirs of Cleopatra did much to restore my confidence and was a thrilling journey through Ancient Egypt and the life of one of history’s most intriguing females. I enjoyed it immensely, although I do have one word of caution, avoid the series that was made and just read the book. So it was with great excitement that I noted the release of her latest book Mary Called Magdalene which I read almost in one sitting. I was a little nervous about the subject matter since I’m not a Christian and not in the habit of reading books about religious figures. All I remembered about Mary Magdalene was that she was supposed to be a harlot who washed Jesus’s feet and dried them with her long hair. In fact not much is known at all about this woman despite the fact that she remains the subject of much debate and controversy. Mary, Called Magdalene strips away the legend and gives a very moving portrayal of a real woman trying to come to grips with her own being. As usual, Ms George’s historical research is so meticulous and accurate that you believe every word she writes is a factual account of Mary of Magdala’s life. I was so convinced the events I was reading actually happened that I was astounded to read the author’s notes at the back of the book revealing that much of Mary’s life was merely based on how women of the time would have lived. If rich historical details aren’t enough for you, the book is also threaded with the supernatural as Mary fights to free her soul from demons and seeks to find redemption as one of Jesus’s disciples. Mary’s torment as she tries to cleanse her spirit is very moving and touching, as is her eventual exile from her own family. It’s been a while since I found a book so enthralling that I literally could not put it down but I was completely hooked from start to finish. Margaret George is a master storyteller who has a great gift for cutting to the heart of a legend and portraying the real people.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Noel

    I had a love/hate relationship with this book. On the one hand I loved it because it made the time period of history come alive, Jesus became a person to me (as opposed to a fantasy figure) and Mary and the other apostles did as well. I loved the descriptions of daily life, the dialogue and the history in plain English. Now for the hate part. The author got very repetitive and long winded. Every time that Jesus and his followers moved from town to town there were paragraphs and paragraphs descri I had a love/hate relationship with this book. On the one hand I loved it because it made the time period of history come alive, Jesus became a person to me (as opposed to a fantasy figure) and Mary and the other apostles did as well. I loved the descriptions of daily life, the dialogue and the history in plain English. Now for the hate part. The author got very repetitive and long winded. Every time that Jesus and his followers moved from town to town there were paragraphs and paragraphs describing pretty similar scenery. So for the first 300 pages or so, it was great, you got a real feel for the area, from the lush, green valleys, to the desert landscapes. But for the next 300 pages, it was a bit of a repetitive slog. Mary's relationship with her daughter was tremendously sad, as was her rejection from her family, very well written. The weak spot, in my opinion, was Jesus as an adult. Given the fact that the entire book is a work of fiction, I thought the author could have given him more of a personality. I found the narrative lacking in essential characterizations of him, and while I understand that she couldn't put thoughts in his head, his interactions with believers and non-believers, as well as with his disciples, were weak and a bit simplistic. The other issue I had with the book, which is neither positive nor negative, is that I thought George might bring in Mary's having a child with Jesus - which clearly had no part in this book. That was an expectation of mine which I was hoping for and didn't materialize. But, Mary is a strong woman who defies her family and learns to read, who follows her heart but does so with thoughtfulness. The author did her research into the times, but there is very little known about Mary of Magdala. In that context, Margaret George invented a life for her, of what could have/should have been from the few clues that she had. So Mary became a young girl in a good Jewish family whose father was in the fish drying business in Magdala. Mary was allowed some slight discretion in choosing her husband and went on to have a daughter, Elisheba. Mary has a small idol which she found on her travels, and this idol possesses her. It is through this possession that she meets Jesus and decides to follow her. In any case, I'm very glad to have read this book. It brought a part of history to life that I know very little about. Sent to Canada as a RABCK, Currently lost in the mail.

  21. 4 out of 5

    JG (The Introverted Reader)

    This is the story of Mary Magdalene's entire life, from childhood to her death. I enjoyed seeing this controversial historical figure in her own element, with no one sitting in judgment of who she was and her relationship to Jesus. The woman who emerged from these pages was initially very troubled. She was doing her best, but she was literally plagued by demons. She met Jesus when she had given up all hope. He gave her her life back, but her old life didn't want her back. Her family was ashamed This is the story of Mary Magdalene's entire life, from childhood to her death. I enjoyed seeing this controversial historical figure in her own element, with no one sitting in judgment of who she was and her relationship to Jesus. The woman who emerged from these pages was initially very troubled. She was doing her best, but she was literally plagued by demons. She met Jesus when she had given up all hope. He gave her her life back, but her old life didn't want her back. Her family was ashamed of her, partially because of the time she had spent alone with unrelated men, and partly because she believed Jesus's message. With nowhere else to go, she became one of his first followers and traveled and worked miracles in His name. My problem was that it was too long. Had it been about half this size, it would have been perfect. I started to feel like this whole group was wandering up and down Israel without any real idea what they were doing. There are only so many pages of that I can read. I haven't read very many historical fiction books set around Jesus and his apostles, so I liked seeing all of them as "real" people, in language I could understand. I had a much better idea of their individual personalities after finishing this. I'll be the first to admit that I'm no Biblical scholar, but I feel that the author stayed true to the sense we get of them in Scripture. I also liked seeing what everyday life was like in those times. I especially liked reading about women's lives. Since I mentioned the relationship with Jesus, I'll say that I thought it was pretty delicately handled. I am pretty open-minded, but it all felt plausible to me. I did find out the problem with sort of getting to see Jesus in a new light: the crucifixion is all new too. My reading pace practically stopped when I knew I was getting close. It wasn't as graphic as I was afraid it would be, but it still hurt to read it. Those with more patience for aimless wandering may enjoy this more than I did. I do recommend it as a book that lets you see some central figures of Christianity in more of an everyday light.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Even though it is fiction (some say the Bible is too though) I feel it's a balanced portrayal of the main story of Jesus and Mary as a witness to it. At first it took a bit to get into and her being possessed was a little far out; however, that is one of the few statements in the Bible about Mary Magdalene. The scenario she endures and how her family reacted to her was a clever way of making it seem somewhat possible in how she decides to become a disciple. I enjoyed the interweaving of the Bibl Even though it is fiction (some say the Bible is too though) I feel it's a balanced portrayal of the main story of Jesus and Mary as a witness to it. At first it took a bit to get into and her being possessed was a little far out; however, that is one of the few statements in the Bible about Mary Magdalene. The scenario she endures and how her family reacted to her was a clever way of making it seem somewhat possible in how she decides to become a disciple. I enjoyed the interweaving of the Biblical verses being incorporated into the plot line. If you weren't a regular Sunday School pupil like myself it was very educational going through the stories that I had heard pretty randomly in my life. I also thought she did a really good job of describing the political situation of the time with the Romans and within the Jewish religion and its leaders. Not sure if you are Jewish it would be a good read, and it would be interested to hear from someone Jewish on their perspective. One of the most interesting aspects of the book I thought that she included was how they all were questioning at different points in the book about what Jesus was saying, and how it laid down some controversies that continue today in the different interpretations and perspectives. I'm wondering too how religious Margaret George is. It was quite a subject to take on, and I applaud her on her thoroughness. Not a quick read, but I definitely think it's worth having the patience to finish it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Monette Chilson

    Astoundingly well-researched. I have been grappling with who Mary Magdalene really was and I am very glad I committed to this book—all 600+ pages of it. In addition to fleshing out the character of Mary Magdalene, it provides a sweeping view of the landscape within which Jesus and his ministry developed, as well as insight into the dynamics that existed among and between the disciples. While the relationship between Mary and Jesus will always be subject to speculation, this biographical novel gi Astoundingly well-researched. I have been grappling with who Mary Magdalene really was and I am very glad I committed to this book—all 600+ pages of it. In addition to fleshing out the character of Mary Magdalene, it provides a sweeping view of the landscape within which Jesus and his ministry developed, as well as insight into the dynamics that existed among and between the disciples. While the relationship between Mary and Jesus will always be subject to speculation, this biographical novel gives us one plausible look. Whether because her research bore it out or because she was trying not to rock the theological boat, she includes no romantic relationship between Mary and Jesus in her narrative. That will, no doubt, please those who are upset by that thought. I, personally, would have welcomed reading of such a relationship in Margaret George's words which have the ability to crystallize the past for us. Her conclusion that there were 16 disciples (12 men & 4 women) resonated with me and seemed to bear out Jesus' message of there being no gender bias in our callings to serve God. I would recommend this to anyone studying Mary Magdalene or to those wanting a glimpse into the minutia of Jesus' days here on earth. For it is the thousands of these fine brushstrokes George paints with her words that make Mary and those she shared life with come alive more than 2,000 years after their death.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    This was an epic sized book but totally enjoyable, based on some fact and a lot fiction it depicted Mary's life from a little girl growing up in Magdela until her death as a church leader many years later. It discusses how she met Jesus who cured her of her demonic possession and how she became an apostle and a disciple following him to the end and then starting up churches in his name. The story we all know is there, Jesus healing the sick, preaching his word and his subsequent death . It's not This was an epic sized book but totally enjoyable, based on some fact and a lot fiction it depicted Mary's life from a little girl growing up in Magdela until her death as a church leader many years later. It discusses how she met Jesus who cured her of her demonic possession and how she became an apostle and a disciple following him to the end and then starting up churches in his name. The story we all know is there, Jesus healing the sick, preaching his word and his subsequent death . It's not all biblical in that it tells of how Mary's life could have been, her marriage to Joel, her child that was taken from her and her relationships with the other disciples and Mary , Jesus' mother. The author weaves a great story and admits that she made up most of Mary's story taken from how life was in the age and what was expected of woman then. It took me 12 days to read this as I broke it up with some light hearted reads but even at 875 pages I guarentee you it is well worth reading!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Over the centuries, the elusive and mysterious Mary Magdalene has taken on the reputation of being a prostitute, even though nowhere in the Scriptures does it indicate that she was. All we know is that Jesus "cast seven demons from her," but it's anyone's guess what the nature of those "seven demons" were. Ms. George spins a rich and fascinating story about the life of Mary Magdalene, sparkling with imagination yet believable because of the obvious depth of research that went into writing this bo Over the centuries, the elusive and mysterious Mary Magdalene has taken on the reputation of being a prostitute, even though nowhere in the Scriptures does it indicate that she was. All we know is that Jesus "cast seven demons from her," but it's anyone's guess what the nature of those "seven demons" were. Ms. George spins a rich and fascinating story about the life of Mary Magdalene, sparkling with imagination yet believable because of the obvious depth of research that went into writing this book. The love between Mary and Jesus is beautifully, warmly, and respectfully depicted without resorting to sensationalism or inappropriate presumptions. Overall, this is an enthralling story, rich with historical and scriptural detail.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    Because there is so little recorded in the Bible about women, I particularly loved this historical fiction narration of the life of Mary Magdalene. We do know from biblical record that Mary was the first person to whom the risen Christ appeared. From the first time I read that scriptural account, I wanted to know more about her. I realize that this story is speculation, but I respect Margaret George's careful, thoughtful, detailed research and writing. The story follows Mary from her girlhood on Because there is so little recorded in the Bible about women, I particularly loved this historical fiction narration of the life of Mary Magdalene. We do know from biblical record that Mary was the first person to whom the risen Christ appeared. From the first time I read that scriptural account, I wanted to know more about her. I realize that this story is speculation, but I respect Margaret George's careful, thoughtful, detailed research and writing. The story follows Mary from her girlhood on and is captivating. I have read all of Margaret George's historical biographies (except Helen of Troy) and loved each one. I keep each one and will reread each from time to time. They are that good!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Muntean

    Having a hard time keeping up with goodreads, but love reading my friends' reviews. Finished this one a while back and found it thought-provoking. Like many similar books, it left me curious how much was based on actual history/known facts (in this case, very little, I would imagine), how much based on logical guesses based on knowledge of the time and places involved, and how much pure author creation. I tend to enjoy Margaret George's books, and this one was no exception. Though long, it was a Having a hard time keeping up with goodreads, but love reading my friends' reviews. Finished this one a while back and found it thought-provoking. Like many similar books, it left me curious how much was based on actual history/known facts (in this case, very little, I would imagine), how much based on logical guesses based on knowledge of the time and places involved, and how much pure author creation. I tend to enjoy Margaret George's books, and this one was no exception. Though long, it was a relatively quick read for me.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wen

    I really enjoyed this one. It is the retelling of the life of Mary Magdalene. It starts when she is a younger girl and goes throughout her life. Margaret George did a good job of painting the backdrop of what the world was at that time and how Marys life possibly had been. While there were some things in the book I did not think were absolutely correct/ prob did not happen that way, I cant say it took away from my liking of the book overall. Since so little was written about Mary, poetic lic. ha I really enjoyed this one. It is the retelling of the life of Mary Magdalene. It starts when she is a younger girl and goes throughout her life. Margaret George did a good job of painting the backdrop of what the world was at that time and how Marys life possibly had been. While there were some things in the book I did not think were absolutely correct/ prob did not happen that way, I cant say it took away from my liking of the book overall. Since so little was written about Mary, poetic lic. has to be involved for a great portion. Overall loved the book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    GeekChick

    I was very disappointed in this book. I was hoping for a portrayal of Mary Magdalene as a strong woman. Instead, she is somewhat sniveling, with a bizarre crush on Jesus. "Does he like me?" kind of thing. I stuck it out through the entire book, but it just wasn't what I was expecting, given some of George's other books. I would only recommend it to people who are hardcore about the subject and interested in every portrayal available.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Thomas West III

    This review was originally published at Queerly Different Since finishing The Confessions of the Young Nero, the most recent literary outing from historical fiction author Margaret George, I’ve found myself possessed of the desire to re-read her entire oeuvre, beginning with the two novels of hers that I haven’t read. So, I started with Mary, Called Magdalene . In another life, I was passionately interested in the history of early Christianity, and I even entertained the notion of pursuing gradua This review was originally published at Queerly Different Since finishing The Confessions of the Young Nero, the most recent literary outing from historical fiction author Margaret George, I’ve found myself possessed of the desire to re-read her entire oeuvre, beginning with the two novels of hers that I haven’t read. So, I started with Mary, Called Magdalene . In another life, I was passionately interested in the history of early Christianity, and I even entertained the notion of pursuing graduate work in that field. Since I opted out of that, I am very happy to see that works like George continue to bring to light the lives and experiences of those women who have been largely left out of the larger historical narratives concerning the genesis and birth of Christianity. Fortunately for me and those like me, Margaret George is right there to bring to light what it might have felt like to walk in the shoes of one of Jesus’s earliest converts. Having combed through both the canonical gospels as well as numerous other ancient sources, George has managed to construct a plausible idea of what Mary’s life must have been like before, during, and after her membership in the circle of disciples that follow Jesus. While she begins the novel as a traditional Jewish wife and mother of the 1st Century CE, things begin to change when she is possessed by a number of demons, vengeful spirits that have grown angry at their dispossession. Ultimately driven nearly mad, she is only saved when she encounters Jesus at the River Jordan, after which she joins his ministry, following him until his death and even afterward. George ably captures the contradictory position that women occupied in ancient Israel, and Mary consistently chafes at the limits imposed upon her by both her own family–who constantly criticize her for her willfulness and ultimately disown her after her decision to follow Jesus–and even by her fellow disciples. In refusing to bow down to the imperative of respectability, she also sacrifices her place in society. While this means that she must also give up her access to her daughter Elisheba–a sacrifice that haunts Mary throughout the novel–she never regrets her decision to follow Jesus and subscribe to the dictates of his ministry. George also ably demonstrates the troubling sense of doubt that Jesus’s disciples must have felt as they struggled to accept a message and a man that went beyond anything that they had been raised to understand. All of them see in Jesus and his message something that helps them make sense of the world, and it is precisely in this multiplicity that George situates Mary and her own interpretation of Jesus. She sees in him both a possible romantic connection (ultimately dashed) and something more, something that is a message that is not based in empty ritual but instead on spiritual fulfillment. She sees in Jesus not a political messiah but instead someone who can, indeed, bring about a very different kingdom, one of the spirit rather than the flesh. The world that George paints is one poised on the edge of a great conflagration. Increasingly embittered as a result of their subjection under the yoke of Rome, the Jewish people yearn for someone to deliver them. For some, Jesus promises an escape from their dilemma, while for others–most notably the leaders of the Temple–he represents a very real threat to their political alliance with Rome. Mary, as a prosperous Jewish woman, finds herself caught up in this conflict, even as she attempts to understand Jesus’ message and her relationship to it. The novel is peopled by a variety of characters from all walks of life, from fisherman to tax collectors to zealots, all of whom see in Jesus something slightly different. It is for this reason that Mary fits in with them, though she does have moments of conflict. Most notably, she finds herself in several terse interactions with Judas, who is both the most like her and the one most prone to his own inner demons and despair. She also finds herself in something of a competition with Peter, with whom she vies for the position of being closest to Jesus. While the entire novel is compellingly readable, it’s the last portion that I found to be the most moving. Here, we are given a close-up perspective of the gospel that Mary has begun to compose, for she comes to understand that Christianity as a faith increasingly diverges from its Jewish origins and that there are those in the fledgeling communities who desperately yearn for the words and testimony of those who were with Jesus while he still walked the earth. As time continues its inexorable march forward, Mary finds herself a key part of the history of a religion. Yet the most heartbreaking thing is the fact that Mary is not reunited with her daughter until it is too late, after she has died as a result of injuries she sustains as a result of her casting down of idols in the city of Ephesus. It is only then that her daughter finally comes to see her, and she erects a memorial testifying to her affection. This sense of being too-late adds a further layer of emotional resonance to Mary’s story. The core of Mary’s narrative and personal dilemma is her awareness and recognition that despite his earth-changing message, the historical world moves on, even though her own life has irrevocably changed. Tormented by the visions that she has of the future, she bears the heavy weight of historical and spiritual responsibility. With its privileging of her perspective–almost the entire novel is related either in third person limited or first person–Mary, Called Magdalene gives us a unique perspective on the presence of the feminine at the root of Christian thought and history. Currently, I’m hard at work on George’s other novel about a famous Mary, Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles. It’s quite a large work, so it will take me quite a while to finish but worry not. Watch this space for my thoughts and reflections on that book as well.

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