The spiritually proud, over-rigorous follower of Christ is a figure too familiar in literature, but her appearance in the 1941 novel, A Woman of the Pharisees, by Francois Mauriac, does the book no harm whatsoever.
The Christ follower in question, Brigitte Pian, complacently butts into other people’s lives and ends up damaging them. She is not like the gentle, prudent Father Calou, whom she also damages. Brigitte’s stepson Louis narrates the woman’s story but, by and by, fails to do so without self-righteousness and a certain contempt for Brigitte. So, inevitably, there is sin and folly everywhere here, but also the idea that God truly values every human being.
Even when they suffer, as the book’s characters—Brigitte among them—do; but the suffering is not senseless. These people approach, or will approach, “the throne of the Great Compassion” (i.e. God) and, frankly, there springs up in the novel a hint about the universal salvation I believe in.
A Woman of the Pharisees (La Pharisienne in French) is a lucidly, wisely written novel which does not stint on human complexity. It is a great Christian novel.
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