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Conclave by Robert Harris
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Conclave (2016)

by Robert Harris

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5844524,148 (3.95)36
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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
I had mixed feeling regarding Conclave. When I first started reading the novel, I was very intrigued. When I saw that it was going to be about a conclave to elect a new pope, I figured the setting would be somewhere around the Middle Ages, since novels about the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church tend to be set many centuries ago. After realizing that it was set in modern times, I was hooked. I like the first half of the book. As the characters were being introduced, and there was a great deal of wheeling and dealing, I thought it was pretty neat. It had a little Game of Thrones feel to it. The book steadily went downhill, and eventually came to a crashing, dumpster fire of an ending.

I thought this novel could have been so much better than it turned out to be. There was a sufficient amount of intrigue. The pace of the novel was good. Where the novel started going south for me was when it became heavy-handed with its politics. I get inundated with politics in my day to day life. I don’t need it when I’m reading fiction. In this book, every progressive Cardinal was a fantastic person who walked on water, and every traditional Cardinal was an evil, loathsome person. It became too much and it got worse as the novel progressed to the point where the entire novel became just about the author expressing his political views in the form of a fiction drama. Then came the trainwreck of the ending. It was so utterly preposterous and groan inducing that it just killed the novel. I won’t spoil it, but it was one of the most ridiculous endings to a novel that I could ever remember. Any shred of believability of credibility went out the window. This novel has some entertainment value, and if you’re reading strictly on that basis, then you may even enjoy it. If you want something a little deeper, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Carl Alves – author of Battle of the Soul ( )
  Carl_Alves | Aug 20, 2018 |
3.5 stars

This is a fictional account of a conclave, when Catholic cardinals from around the world are called to Rome when a pope dies. They must now elect a new pope. To do so, anyone can be voted for, but there needs to be a 2/3 majority. They just keep voting until that happens. If it takes longer, they take breaks in order to pray on it.

This story is told from the point of view of the “Dean”, Lomeli, who is basically in charge of making sure protocol is followed properly. In addition to prayer, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes, including politics and scandal.

This was much more interesting to me than I expected it to be (I am not Catholic, nor even religious). Because I listened to the audio, it did take a bit at the start to get “into” it, but once it got going, it was pretty good. There is quite the twist at the end! ( )
  LibraryCin | Jul 27, 2018 |
I enjoyed this novel about the selection of a new pope very much. It was very well researched, a real page-turner but with enough character development for me. I especially like the way the author brought the selection process into the modern world, with themes of reform vs. tradition, geo-political considerations, the reality of living in a 24-hours-a-day news cycle...and I loved the ending, which I kind of figured out in advance, but that didn't detract from the story a bit. ( )
  LynnB | Jul 3, 2018 |
Conclave by its nature is not action packed. Much of the book is quiet dialogue between elderly men locked away for the world in a series of rooms. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating view of how the conclave process works to select a new Pope and an interesting take on power, honesty and faith. It was well paced for an easy read that was quick to consume yet a thought provoking read.

The entire apparatus was archaic, absurd, and oddly wonderful.

Plot in a Nutshell
Cardinal Lomeli is the Dean of the College of Cardinals, a man who is struggling to relocate his faith and disheartened after his attempt to resign was rejected by the Pope. He is woken in the middle of the night to be told the Pope is dead and must therefore manage the intergnum and the election of the new Pope. There are clear favourites for the role and Lomeli’s faith and beliefs are tested further as their ambition and histories become clear and he struggles to decide what the right thing to do might be

Thoughts
I have been fortunate to visit the Vatican on a few occasions and in this novel Harris catapults the reader into not just the public, but also the private spaces of the smallest country of earth. His scene setting is fantastic and he takes advantage of the private access he was granted whilst writing this book to the fullest. It’s not just the physical that Harris paints so effectively. He also describes the processes and traditions around conclave; the politics, the prayers and the ritual beautifully. The detail could be nonfiction but the story flows throughout.

The character development is also exceedingly well done – I don’t know the extent to which the characters are based on real life players, although the Pope whose death kicks off the story seems to have more than a few similarities with Pope Francis, but they certainly reflect the challenges that the modern church faces. There are liberal and traditionalists amongst the candidates and the geographical pulls that have bene seen in the last two conclaves. The desire of the still strong Italians to have an Italian elected versus the excitement of the possibility of an African or North American pope.

So far so good but when the doors lock and we’re left with 118 men grappling with faith, and power struggles it could become a slow read. Not so. Harris slowly ramps up the tension through not just the votes where no immediate front runner is identified but also by Lomeli battling to decide what to do as information about some of the preferred candidates comes into play leading to a final set of twists that whilst signposted I did not see coming to fruition.

My favourite Harris novel since Fatherland. ( )
  itchyfeetreader | May 23, 2018 |
The conclave of the title takes place after the death of a fictional Pope, but one with some resemblance to Pope Francis. We don’t learn too much about him at the beginning, except that he is a reformer. The story is narrated by Cardinal Lomeli, one of the Pope’s closest associates, who is tasked with the organisation of the conclave, just as he is struggling with a crisis of faith. As the cardinals assemble from around the world to choose his successor, we are introduced to the favourites to succeed the Pope and to their supporters and factions. The deceased Pope also plays a significant role, even after death. His influence, his love, and the consequences of his actions are felt acutely by Lomeli and the others who were close to him and they learn that he made some surprising decisions in his final days. You might question whether there is much drama to be had in the deliberations of a group of men over 60, largely confined in one place. However Harris does it brilliantly. He weaves together all the issues confronting the church, and the contrasts between the cardinals – in matters of faith, temperament, politics and geography. Lomeli’s role means he has to liaise with the outside world during their supposed confinement and his assistants prove to be able co-conspirators (and of course there are nuns again, providing the catering). There is a lot of detail of the traditions of the conclave, capturing both the splendour and the banality of the life of the Vatican. There are a few Father Ted moments, such as when the cardinals make their way to their accommodation for the conclave, dressed in their full regalia, pulling their wheelie suitcases behind them. Harris asks interesting questions about the nature of spirituality and its relationship to ritual. There are moments when the cardinals may be moved by the voice of God, or it may just be that they imagine him saying what they want to hear. The reader is left to make up their own mind. I spent some time thinking about the way the conclave, and the novel, end. I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. But then an ending that makes you think, and question, is perhaps the best kind. I found this a fascinating insight into the strange world of Vatican politics and a great political thriller. A longer version of this review first appeared on my blog https://katevane.wordpress.com/ ( )
  KateVane | May 10, 2018 |
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'I thought it wiser not to eat with the cardinals. I ate in my room. At the eleventh hour I was elected Pope. O Jesus, I too can say what Pius XII said when he was elected: "Have mercy on me, Lord, according to thy great mercy." One would say that it is like a dream and yet, until I die, it is the most solemn reality of all my life. So I'm ready, Lord, "to live and die with you ." About three hundred thousand people applauded me on St Peter's balcony.

The arc-lights prevented me from seeing anything other than a shapeless, heaving mass.'

POPE JOHN XXIII , DIARY ENTRY, 28 OCTOBER 1958
'I was solitary before, but now my solitariness becomes complete and awesome. Hence the dizziness, like vertigo. Like a statue on a plinth—that is how I live now.'
POPE PAUL VI
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Even voor tweeën in de ochtend verliet kardinaal Lomeli zijn appartement in het Paleis van het Heilig Officie en liep haastig door de donkere kloostergangen van het Vaticaan naar het slaapvertrek van de paus.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451493443, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 05 Sep 2016 03:29:34 -0400)

The Pope is dead. Behind locked doors of the Sistine chapel, 118 cardinals from around the world will cast their votes in the world's most secretive election. They are holy men, but they are men of the world, and they have rivals. And over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.… (more)

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