Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Conclave by Robert Harris

Robert Harris writes very compelling accurate historical fiction covering subjects from ancient Rome to the Nazi era.  Several of his books have been made into movies including Fatherland and Enigma.  In this book he focuses on the traditions and maneuverings that precede the election of a new pope.
The current pope is found dead in his bed by Cardinal Wozniak, and uncommonly there is a delay of several hours before others are informed.  A timeline is drawn and the apartment is sealed to inhibit rumors and gossip among staff and reporters.
The Conclave begins almost three weeks after the Pope's death.  The 118 Cardinals arrive and are locked in the Sistine Chapel  until a Pope is selected.  Three of the most ambitious of them have factions of supporters inside the electoral college-Bellini who is the favorite of the liberals, Tremblay who has ties to the third world, and Adeyemi who could become the first black Pope.  Managing the election is the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Jakopo Lomeli.
During the course of the next 72 hours, many secrets will be revealed and expectations will fail.  As the other cardinals become more aware of the attitudes, and  views  of their fellow cardinals it seems to become harder to elect one. Five ballots are cast, but no one has the necessary two-thirds majority needed to become pope.  Tensions mount after the death of Cardinal Wozniak and it is rumored that one of the cardinals had been fired just before the pope died.  Then a terrorist attack occurs.  This inspires the group to work together and the most unlikely of candidates is chosen 
This book would be of interest to anyone who attended Catholic school where the person of the Pope is much revered.  This book makes it very clear that they are just men, with all the wants and needs of the average man.  One of the interesting additions is quotes from the diaries of real popes such as John XXIII and Pius VI.  Tidbits from the lives and deaths of the popes are interspersed throughout.

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