The best-selling author of Enigma and Fatherland turns to today's Vatican in a ripped-from-the-headlines novel, and gives us his most ambitious, page-turning thriller yet - where the power of God is nearly equaled by the ambition of men.
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.
At 6:30 a.m., the alarm sounded throughout the Casa Santa Martaa 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 ...
The attention to detail and fulsome description of the key locations of the novel – primarily the Sistine Chapel and the Casa Santa Marta where the Cardinals all sleep and eat for the duration of the conclave – bring this story to vivid life. Even if this conclave is fictional, the novel has wonderful authenticity. Places and characters are believable and convincing, and although the ending may stretch credulity a little, Harris succeeds in the delicate balance of placing absorbing fiction within a real setting.
(Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).
Full Review (441 words).
In Conclave, Robert Harris creates an imaginary world of Cardinals meeting in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new Pope. The Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope or Holy Father, is the leader of the Catholic Church, a religion with over one billion members worldwide.
The Roman Catholic Church recognizes 266 popes in the Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook), starting with the apostle Peter who, according to the Roman Catholic Church, was directly chosen by Jesus - "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). Over two thousand years, the process of electing a new Pope has been refined and developed, most recently changing in 1970 when Pope Paul VI limited the age of the Cardinals involved in...
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