Summary (from back of book)
Hell is other people…
Two thousand years ago four travellers enter the Judean desert to fast and pray for their lost souls. In the blistering heat and barren rocks they encounter the evil merchant Musa – madman, sadist, rapist, even a Satan – who holds them in his tyrannical power. Yet there is also another, a faint figure in the distance, fasting for forty days, a Galilean who they say has the power to work miracles…Here, trapped in the wilderness, their terrifying battle for survival begins…
It was bewitched by her already, if that is possible, if the land can be allowed a heart.
Quarantine tells a different story of the forty days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert. In this version, Jesus is not the son of God, but rather an ordinary son of a carpenter with a religious fervour unmatched by those around him. So, he goes off into the desert to become closer to God. However, he is not at the centre of the story, merely a figure who is present, seen most often through the eyes of the other characters, and in relation to their own personal reason that drove them out to the desert.
These other characters are diverse and richly drawn. Musa, the greedy merchant and devil of the story, is chief among them. He is a horrible, horrible person (this we know from the back of the book) but there are some passages in the story that outline his evil nature that make for unpleasant reading. And yet, so well-written is the story, it won’t stop you from reading on, although I must say that I couldn’t sit and read long passages of the book in one go, at least, not until the end, when I couldn’t put the book down.
The descriptions of the desert are rich and detailed, and at particular points in the narrative, the desert almost feels like another character. The style in which the story is told, and the language that is used, give Quarantine a vague, dream-like, poetic quality. That vagueness seeps into the story, leaving open questions as to Jesus’ divinity but at the same time making the reader think and wonder…
Quarantine is an interesting, imaginative book.