Quarantine by Jim Crace
With an introduction by Stuart Evers
So this is happiness, she thought. Or this, at least, is what adds up to happiness. The prospect of never running after men and camels any more, of being Miri without shame or hesitation, of letting drop her headscarf for a change so that nothing intervened between her and the sky.
Five travellers venture into the Judean wilderness in search of redemption. Instead, amidst the barren rocks, they are met by a dangerous man, Musa, and fall under his dark influence. As the unforgiving days and bitter nights erode their resolve, it becomes clear that one among them will go further than the rest: a fervent, solitary figure, he denies the temptations of his neighbours, and, ultimately, the needs of his own body.
Quarantine, Jim Crace's provocative retelling of Jesus' forty day fast in the desert, won the Whitbread novel of the year and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Moving and fascinating in equal measure, this is a classic that tampers with tradition, a stunningly realised novel from one of the great writers of our time.