By: Robert Harris
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase
The Pope is dead.
Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election.
They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.
Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.
Firstly, my edition has a different book cover, but anyway, I’ve been eyeing this book since I first heard of it last year. I came across the mass market paperback whilst I was in Reykjavik and decided to pick it up immediately (luggage space will be made) as I had a feeling it wasn’t going to come out in that format in North America (I was right). Moving along in my thriller reading spree, I decided to read this book next, and during break at work (format and everything is best to unwind with).
To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book. I knew it was going to focus on the conclave but I wasn’t sure how the story itself was going to play out, whose point of view we were going to follow, where the suspense was going to lie. And the fact is, the idea of the conclave unfolding is enough of a story as much as these men are men dedicated to God and to the Catholic Church, there’s a lot of politicking involved, current events happening around the world also affect their decision-making, as well as their own flaws and failures and weaknesses. And boy do they all come out during this conclave.
It was interesting to follow Cardinal Lomeli throughout all of this, a man of prominent standing amongst his colleagues but also in the last Papacy. He’s a man who’s very good at what he does but is also deeply conflicted, as one perhaps would be after years of administrating and faced with the practical issues that the Church was facing. His own spiritual conflict was interesting to read amidst his navigation amongst the cardinals, the ambitious and those who had serious prospects of becoming the next pope. It’s quite the cast of characters and as the conclave draws together and starts, you can begin to feel the build-up and where the mystery lies: what secrets are these men hiding? How far are they willing to go to becoming the next Pope? Who really is truly devout in their faith? It’s an interesting character study, really.
And, oh man, I posted this on Litsy but there was this one particular scene that was so good, I could imagine it playing out on-screen, it was deliciously dramatic.
Overall Conclave was a very interesting read that not only brought the process of the conclave to life with all of its rules but also the politicking, current events, and real-life issues that the Catholic Church presently faces. There was one major event towards the end that felt a little abrupt towards the end but I could see why it was brought in when it was, to bring the conclusion forward, but it could’ve used a hint early on in the book. Some of the character reveals again I suspected early on when they were hinted but nonetheless it didn’t detract me from enjoying the story.