As a not-yet-very-established book reviewer I get a lot of first books to review, from people who are just starting out in the literary world, still trying to find their way. Those books might not always be that good, but most writers are open to feedback and I can always point out some good points in their work. So I was very surprised when I found out that João Cerqueira, the writer of Jesus and Magdalene which is filled with beginner mistakes, has already published eight books.
Jesus and Magdalene is the story of Jesus’ second coming to earth. Contrary to last time, he chooses to stay low key and helps out the idealist Magdalene. I like a bit of historical metafiction, so the idea of a second coming spoke to me, but I did not like this book at all.
To begin with my first impression: I got the book in the mail and I was instantly disappointed. It’s not that hard to create a decent cover for your book, why am I seeing pixels? It’s just extremely sloppy and not very professional. A decent publisher should really watch out for these kinds of mistakes. A decent publisher should also provide some basic editing. The use of italics in this book is wrong, very inconsistent, and extremely distracting. It’s not that hard, guys.
Secondly, the stories are not that original. The book is seperated in three chapters. In each chapter, Jesus and Magdalene try to solve another problem, environmentalist or social. The stories take very long to build up, stop suddenly and have all kinds of irrelevant detours. The absolute worst is the last chapter. A neighbourhood, New Europe, is introduced, where black people and gypsies live together, but in war with eachother. This already made me think of Verona but I thought: no, nobody is that unoriginal! And suddenly… Romi and Julian. At this point I slammed the book shut and went a full five minutes screaming “NO! NO! YOU CAN’T DO THAT! NO! BAD WRITER! NO!” Really. Ask my boyfriend. We were in the car and he got angry with me because my screaming hurt his ears.
As if the lack of originality isn’t enough, Cerqueira constantly tries too hard making references. He refers to the Bible, mythology, popular culture, history. Now, I like a bit of an intellectual puzzle as much as the next gal, but 1. it’s too much, 2. quite a lot of the references are irrelevant or just plain wrong, and 3. if you have to explain every reference in a footnote, you’re doing something wrong. References are like jokes, you shouldn’t explain them! Either trust your audience’s intellectual capacities, or just leave the references out.
But hey, apparently Cerqueira has already written eight books, got all kinds of prizes and has been published in quite some magazines, so it looks like there’s a market for these kinds of books. It’s just REALLY not my cup of tea.