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Excerpt from Conclave by Robert Harris, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Conclave

by Robert Harris

Conclave by Robert Harris X
Conclave by Robert Harris
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2016, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2017, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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Excerpt
Conclave

At 6:30 a.m., the alarm sounded throughout the Casa Santa Marta—a clanging seminary bell. Lomeli opened his eyes. He was curled up on his side. He felt groggy, raw. He had no idea how long he had been asleep, only that it couldn't have been for more than an hour or two. The sudden remembrance of all he had to do in the coming day passed over him like a wave of nausea, and for a while he lay unable to move. Normally his waking routine was to meditate for fifteen minutes then rise and say his morning prayers. But on this occasion, when at last he managed to summon the will to put his feet to the floor, he went directly into the bathroom and ran a shower as hot as he could bear. The water scourged his back and shoulders. He twisted and turned beneath it and cried out in pain. Afterwards he rubbed away the moisture on the mirror and surveyed with disgust his raw and scalded skin. My body is clay, my good fame a vapour, my end is ashes.

He felt too tense to breakfast with the others. He stayed in his room, rehearsing his homily and attempting to pray, and left it until the very last minute to go downstairs.

The lobby was a red sea of cardinals robing for the short procession to St. Peter's. The officials of the Conclave, led by Archbishop Mandorff and Monsignor O'Malley, had been allowed back into the hostel to assist; Father Zanetti was waiting at the foot of the stairs to help Lomeli dress. They went into the same waiting room opposite the chapel in which he had met Wozniak the night before. When Zanetti asked him how he had slept, he replied, "Very soundly, thank you," and hoped the young priest would not notice the dark circles beneath his eyes and the way his hands shook when he handed him his sermon for safe keeping. He ducked his head into the opening of the thick red chasuble that had been worn by successive Deans of the College over the past twenty years and held out his arms as Zanetti fussed around him like a tailor, straightening and adjusting it. The mantle felt heavy on his shoulders. He prayed silently: Lord, who hast said, My yoke is easy and My burden is light, grant that I may so bear it as to attain Thy grace. Amen. Zanetti stood in front of him and reached up to place upon

Zanetti stood in front of him and reached up to place upon his head the tall mitre of white watered silk. The priest stepped back a pace to check it was correctly aligned, squinted, came forward again and altered it by a millimetre, then walked behind Lomeli and tugged down the ribbons at the back and smoothed them. It felt alarmingly precarious. Finally he gave him the crozier. Lomeli lifted the golden shepherd's crook a couple of times in his left hand, testing the weight. You are not a shepherd, a familiar voice whispered in his head. You are a manager. He had a sudden urge to give it back, to tear off the vestments, to confess himself a fraud and disappear. He smiled and nodded. "It feels good," he said. "Thank you."

The lobby was a red sea of cardinals robing for the short procession to St. Peter's. The officials of the Conclave, led by Archbishop Mandorff and Monsignor O'Malley, had been allowed back into the hostel to assist; Father Zanetti was waiting at the foot of the stairs to help Lomeli dress. They went into the same waiting room opposite the chapel in which he had met Wozniak the night before. When Zanetti asked him how he had slept, he replied, "Very soundly, thank you," and hoped the young priest would not notice the dark circles beneath his eyes and the way his hands shook when he handed him his sermon for safe keeping. He ducked his head into the opening of the thick red chasuble that had been worn by successive Deans of the College over the past twenty years and held out his arms as Zanetti fussed around him like a tailor, straightening and adjusting it. The mantle felt heavy on his shoulders. He prayed silently: Lord, who hast said, My yoke is easy and My burden is light, grant that I may so bear it as to attain Thy grace. Amen. Zanetti stood in front of him and reached up to place upon

Zanetti stood in front of him and reached up to place upon his head the tall mitre of white watered silk. The priest stepped back a pace to check it was correctly aligned, squinted, came forward again and altered it by a millimetre, then walked behind Lomeli and tugged down the ribbons at the back and smoothed them. It felt alarmingly precarious. Finally he gave him the crozier. Lomeli lifted the golden shepherd's crook a couple of times in his left hand, testing the weight. You are not a shepherd, a familiar voice whispered in his head. You are a manager. He had a sudden urge to give it back, to tear off the vestments, to confess himself a fraud and disappear. He smiled and nodded. "It feels good," he said. "Thank you."

Excerpted from Conclave by Robert Harris. Copyright © 2016 by Robert Harris. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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