I loved Christos Tsiolkas’s 2008 novel The Slap (so much so that I named it one of my must-read books by Aussie authors). Still, I knew just looking at the blurb of Damascus that it was going to be very different: “a work of immense power and epic scope, taking as its subject nothing less than the events surrounding the birth and establishment of the Christian church”. Allen & Unwin sent me a copy for review, and I was happy to take a giant leap out of my comfort zone.
I’m a big ol’ heathen, so I didn’t have a lot of religious context for what was happening. To me, it almost read like a historic dystopia. But I think that made it all the better, for me to appreciate the poetic language and visceral imagery and raw emotion that Tsiolkas used to depict this world.
What I’m saying is you don’t need to be a Christian, or familiar with the historical aspects of Christianity, to read Damascus (and it might actually be better if you aren’t).