Conclave by Robert Harris - Book Review
I have read all of Robert Harris’s books, though I confess I did think twice about buying this one. After all, what could be exciting about a lot of old men locked in a room to choose a new Pope?
But I am glad that I did, and in the event 118, or was it 119, there was one latecomer, were indeed locked in a room to come to an agreement on who would be their new boss.
And so the machinations and downright canvassing and psychological warfare and long dead scandals were dug up, anything to damage a potential rival, as the Cardinals split into various groups, the Italians, there hasn’t been an Italian Pope for 40 years, the English speakers, the French speakers, the Africans, the Asians, the conservatives and the reformers, and so it went on.
This was all brought about by the death of the incumbent, which wasn’t any great surprise as he was an old man, just like all the rest of them, and the book is set in the near future, sufficiently away from current times to distance the events, but sufficiently close to make them relevant.
I am not a particularly quick reader but I did rattle through this, and that is entirely down to the page-turning skills that Mister Harris exhibits in almost all of his work. And after a slightly slow first 150 pages that set the scene amid a great deal of earnest praying and prayers, quelle surprise!
That all brought us rattling on to he denouement, and don’t worry there will be no spoilers here, I will say no more about that except to say that I was not alone in feeling slightly disappointed by it, and I saw it coming from way out.
In the pantheon of mister Harris’s works, I would place this pretty low down, above the baffling Fear Index for sure, but that would be about it, but still, it was a surprisingly interesting read that I had to finish once I got into it, and I am glad that I did.
The next Robert Harris book is believed to be entitled “Munich”, a prequel to his hugely successful and breakthrough novel “Fatherland”, and there I think he will be back on more familiar ground, and certainly I suspect his army of diehard readers will be happier with that, but don’t rule out “Conclave” without giving it a chance. I enjoyed it, and that is all that really matters.