Conclave

Conclave

SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER‘Unputdownable’ Guardian ‘Gripping’ Sunday Times 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 bec...

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Title:Conclave
Author:Robert Harris
Rating:
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Kindle Edition
Number of Pages:287 pages

Conclave Reviews

  • James
    Oct 03, 2016

    This is an intelligent, compelling, unpredictable and absorbing thriller of the best kind.

    Whilst the subject matter – Conclave (an assembly of cardinals for the election of a pope) is something I knew very little about (other than the iconic chimneys emitting either black or white smoke!) the general themes concerning political machinations and the struggle for power will be familiar to Robert Harris readers. Clear parallels can be drawn between themes explored in Conclave and those in Harris’

    This is an intelligent, compelling, unpredictable and absorbing thriller of the best kind.

    Whilst the subject matter – Conclave (an assembly of cardinals for the election of a pope) is something I knew very little about (other than the iconic chimneys emitting either black or white smoke!) the general themes concerning political machinations and the struggle for power will be familiar to Robert Harris readers. Clear parallels can be drawn between themes explored in Conclave and those in Harris’ Cicero trilogy – the obvious difference here being the contemporary Vatican setting and the bestowing of religious / quasi-political power – contrasting with the ancient Roman Senate and the goal of political / military / absolute power.

    What’s also noticeably different here from Harris’ other studies of the struggle for power are:

    Firstly: The cloistered nature and setting of the Conclave – which naturally and greatly adds to the uncontrived tension and claustrophobia of the novel (a setting which must be a gift to an author such as Harris).

    Secondly: By definition the omnipresent religious element underlying the Conclave voting, this at least superficially dominates proceedings and varies by degree of course dependant on the implied motivations of the various characters.

    Definitely recommended to any fan of this genre – it’s a great read.

  • Diane S ☔
    Oct 19, 2016

    4.5 The second book in as many days that I didn't want to put down. It initially appealed to me because I spent most of my school years in Catholic schools, was pretty young when Vatican two came around. All I really remember is that we no longer had to go to mass every morning at 6:30 am, before school started, that mass was no longer in Latin and that the nuns started wearing shorter habit, shorter veils and in different shades of pastel. Pretty big, though small in the scheme of things I supp

    4.5 The second book in as many days that I didn't want to put down. It initially appealed to me because I spent most of my school years in Catholic schools, was pretty young when Vatican two came around. All I really remember is that we no longer had to go to mass every morning at 6:30 am, before school started, that mass was no longer in Latin and that the nuns started wearing shorter habit, shorter veils and in different shades of pastel. Pretty big, though small in the scheme of things I suppose, to a small child.

    The pope has died, descriptions of a peoples pope, a pope who refused to live in the grandeur of the Vatican apartments, point to this representing our current Pope, Francis. The dean of the Cardinals, is the Cardinal charged with making sure the Conclave runs smoothly, that all 118 cardinals from all over the world, adhere to the strict measures set within. Just like our political system, where each side represents different positions, there are factions with varying opinions on the future of the church. So the jockeying begins, votes are taken and the intrigue begins. Never expected to find myself completely enthralled by this inside look of what it takes to elect our next pope. Didn't expect so many revelations nor what extent some cardinals would to to hide offenses that would keep, them out of the running. Found myself totally glued to these pages, wanting to see what would happen next, who would ultimately be elected.

    A well written novel, my first by this author, and a wonderful portrayal of not only the differences in the many cardinals but how many differences there are in their views of the Church's future. The ending, could it happen? Probably. Would it happen? Who knows but I am not sure it is realistic. Still, I applaud the author for this total surprise, one I did not see coming.

    ARC from publisher.

  • Emma
    Jan 23, 2017

    Excellent read! It almost felt like historical fiction because there was quite a lot about the traditions of the conclave and also where the outside world is deliberately shut out for the process of electing a new pope, it almost might have been set 400 years ago.

    I'm lucky enough to have visited Rome and the Vatican and it really helped me to visualise the setting. I also saw a programme about the Borgias and a dramatised version of the Conclave, so when I saw this book I knew I would have to re

    Excellent read! It almost felt like historical fiction because there was quite a lot about the traditions of the conclave and also where the outside world is deliberately shut out for the process of electing a new pope, it almost might have been set 400 years ago.

    I'm lucky enough to have visited Rome and the Vatican and it really helped me to visualise the setting. I also saw a programme about the Borgias and a dramatised version of the Conclave, so when I saw this book I knew I would have to read it.

    This book has plenty of intrigue and thrills and it really kept me guessing. It's quite a short book and I found it hard to put down.. if you fancy a book with a thrill of a different kind, this book could be for you. Recommended.

  • Annet
    Nov 05, 2016

    Interesting, fascinating, intriguing. 'Unputdownable'(Guardian), yes, that is the right word.

    The process of the Vatican Conclave, the thought of the beautiful art there and an intrigue. What goes on behind those closed doors? It kept me reading to get to the twist. The twist... mmmm... far fetched? Well who knows, in today's day & age. I did love the struggle of Cardinal & Dean Lomeli in guiding the delicate process of the Conclave. Gre

    Interesting, fascinating, intriguing. 'Unputdownable'(Guardian), yes, that is the right word.

    The process of the Vatican Conclave, the thought of the beautiful art there and an intrigue. What goes on behind those closed doors? It kept me reading to get to the twist. The twist... mmmm... far fetched? Well who knows, in today's day & age. I did love the struggle of Cardinal & Dean Lomeli in guiding the delicate process of the Conclave. Great book. Note: great cover. The atmosphere of the red cover pulled me in. In the afterword the author writes that he was allowed to visit the locations used during a Conclave that are permanently closed to the public. Wow, wish I could do that...

    It made me think I really need to visit Rome and the Vatican again soon. Wander the streets in wonder and awe.... Great book. Recommended!

  • Matt
    Nov 03, 2016

    Harris returns with another remarkable novel of historical fiction, turning his narrative to the present as explores a highly pious and political event. THE POPE IS DEAD! This startling piece of news makes its way to the ears of Cardinal Lomeli in the early hours one October morning. Heading to the apartment of the Holy Father, Lomeli is met by a small group, who confirm the news and begin the prescribed acts required when the Vatican is without its Supreme Pontiff. As the news becomes public, L

    Harris returns with another remarkable novel of historical fiction, turning his narrative to the present as explores a highly pious and political event. THE POPE IS DEAD! This startling piece of news makes its way to the ears of Cardinal Lomeli in the early hours one October morning. Heading to the apartment of the Holy Father, Lomeli is met by a small group, who confirm the news and begin the prescribed acts required when the Vatican is without its Supreme Pontiff. As the news becomes public, Lomeli is tasked with preparing for the highly publicised, though extremely secret, event known as The Conclave. As Dean of the College of Cardinals, Lomeli must organise the election of the next pope, which is only a few weeks hence. During the intervening time, the funeral must take place and Lomeli handles sundry pieces of Vatican business ahead of the papal election. As cardinals arrive from all over the world to cast their ballots, Lomeli wrestles with a few issues surrounding cardinal electors, including one Cardinal Tremblay, the Vatican Camerlengo, its temporary leader, a French-Canadian who was apparently removed from all positions the night before the pope died. As if this were not enough to occupy his time, as 117 confirmed cardinals have arrived for Conclave, a mysterious figure appears and makes he known that he, too, is a cardinal eligible to choose the next pontiff. Vincent Benitez, Archbishop of Baghdad, was appointed a cardinal in pectore, 'in the heart', and was known only to the recently deceased pope and God. Seeing the documentation and meditating on this oddity, Lomeli grants Benitez access to the Conclave and the preliminary events commence. Even before being sequestered into the Sistene Chapel, there are a few front runners for the position, all of whom seek to solidify their supporters before the voting begins. Tremblay stands firm that he can speak best for the Catholic Church, being a North American without being from America; Bellini, the current Secretary of State from Italy, served the last pope well on the world scene and can continue with his liberal outlook in directing the Church; Adeyemi, a cardinal from Nigeria, seeks to lead the way for the Third World and present the Church with its first black pontiff; and Tedesco, Italian and pining for a return of a fellow countryman to the Throne of St. Peter, who will also remove the impediments that Vatican II ushered in, keeping the faith pure and the language of the Church equally so. These four men vie as best they can before cardinals place their minds in God's hand to help them cast their ballots. Once the Conclave begins, Lomeli must continue running it by the strict orders laid out in the Apostolic Constitution, which includes specific rules and processes. While the outside world is left to wonder what is going on, receiving only the most minimal of news in the form of curling smoke from a chimney, inside the Sistene Chapel there is much politicking. Lomeli uncovers great issues with two of the front runners, whose power dwindles as the Dean uses the Constitution to keep the Conclave on track. As the ballots mount, surprises continue, and not even an act of terror can stop the cardinals from choosing the new Catholic leader. Voting continues until one cardinal receives the proscribed two-thirds of the votes, which seems almost impossible until impassioned speeches before the eighth ballot. Lomeli is on the verge of witnessing history, but even then, there is one more surprise that no one saw coming. The Catholic Church is set to change dramatically, though its congregants cannot know how deeply divided its upper echelon has become over a single decision. From the embers of the deceased pope comes the cry the world has waited to hear: Habemus papam (We have a Pope)! A thought-provoking thriller that keeps readers glued to the page until the very last sentence.

    This is a brilliant piece that pulls together the most political event in the world, far exceeding the election of an American president (and this is from a non-Catholic). The intricacies and nuances with a Conclave are enough to drive any historian or political fanatic mad, but to create one in a piece of fiction is surely an even more onerous task. Harris develops a wonderful collection of characters to serve as cardinals and support staff, though he promises in his author's note that none are based on actual people. Using these multi-dimensional individuals, the narrative moves in interesting ways to enrich the story the further it advances, using Lomeli as the central protagonist throughout. From what I know of Conclaves and the rules surrounding them, Harris has used everything at his disposal to create momentum in the most interesting of spots without dragging things out too much or weighing the story down in a constitutional miasma. Tackling the fallibility of each cardinal, the struggle between man and God, the views of the outside world, and the highly political event that is electing the Supreme Pontiff, Harris delivers a thriller that far exceeds any expectations and does so in under three hundred pages. Weaving dramatic interactions into the storyline, the reader is left to cheer on their favourite cardinal, in hopes that he will obtain the magic eighty votes. I cannot think of a novel that churned up so much political excitement in me or so flawlessly depicts this highly secretive event as a Conclave. Readers of all political and religious stripes will surely enjoy devouring this piece, which reads so fluidly and is timeless in its presentation that it could be read over the years without losing any lustre.

    Kudos, Mr. Harris for entertaining, educating, and keeping the reader guessing until the very end. I cannot think of a better novel to read to contrast and compare with the circus of the upcoming US General Election.

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  • Jaidee
    Nov 23, 2016

    4 "solid, carefully layered, quietly thrilling" stars !

    We have all of Mr. Robert Harris' novels and I have read none of them. When I saw this in the bookstore, however, I just had to have it. I was allowed to buy it on the condition that I start reading it within two weeks of purchase. I live with a tyrant but a sweet and generous one :)

    After reading this novel I will be certain to read all his others as Mr. Harris is an excellent and subtle storyteller. He has done meticulous research on the

    4 "solid, carefully layered, quietly thrilling" stars !

    We have all of Mr. Robert Harris' novels and I have read none of them. When I saw this in the bookstore, however, I just had to have it. I was allowed to buy it on the condition that I start reading it within two weeks of purchase. I live with a tyrant but a sweet and generous one :)

    After reading this novel I will be certain to read all his others as Mr. Harris is an excellent and subtle storyteller. He has done meticulous research on the traditions and laws of Roman Catholic Conclave and created an exciting and compelling story of a fictionalized account in the near future.

    Among my agnostic friends and friends that are ex-Catholics they questioned my desire to read this novel. I am not Catholic but have learned an awful lot from wise clergy, compassionate nuns and monks and have been moved spiritually when attending Old Rites services. I have also witnessed the great social justice work that is done by liberation theologians and practitioners in Latin America. This is not to say that great evil has not been perpetuated by this huge institution including widespread childhood sexual abuse and the oppression of women, sexual minorities and other faiths. I digress ( as usual) and will start with a quote from the book:

    " Bless you, Sister, for your generosity. I believe my heart is pure. But how can any one of say for sure why we act as we do? In my experience, the basest sins are often committed for the highest motives. "

    This book follows Lomelli a cardinal who has the task of facilitating Conclave as the Dean of Cardinals. We follow his investigations into corruption, secrets, his spiritual struggles and the reflection of his own conscience as he navigates mystery upon mystery of this compelling novel.

    Mr. Harris has great skill in painting portraits with very little information and only a few colors to create realistic dialogue, fascinating tension and the formation of alliances and the development of schisms.

    Mr. Harris does not weigh us down with too much detail but enough to get a crystal clear picture of procedure, strategy and ambience. He understands politics, human psychology and the struggle of the spirit.

    A wonderful and thrilling read. I look forward to your Roman trilogy Mr. Harris !!

  • Linda
    Dec 15, 2016

    The author, Robert Harris, was given the privilege of visiting the locations that are permanently closed to the public to help him in his research of this book. The reader is given an in-depth tour and detailed account of traditions and rituals that take place. His writing style makes it so easy to visualize every aspect of the happenings.

    What starts out as a usual process for choosing a new pope, soon develops into a plot with numerous complications, unraveling secrets long hidden, and just whe

    The author, Robert Harris, was given the privilege of visiting the locations that are permanently closed to the public to help him in his research of this book. The reader is given an in-depth tour and detailed account of traditions and rituals that take place. His writing style makes it so easy to visualize every aspect of the happenings.

    What starts out as a usual process for choosing a new pope, soon develops into a plot with numerous complications, unraveling secrets long hidden, and just when you think you have it all figured out, a new twist to the storyline is thrown in. It was interesting to me how much a role politics play in the selection.

    The "Conclave" had me turning pages at a new pace. From the novel's beautiful cover to its last page that left me in complete surprise, I never wavered from being deeply involved. It's one of those books that comes along way too seldom.

    This amazing book was one of my favorite reads for 2016.

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    Nov 26, 2016

    Cardinal Jacopo Lomeli has been contemplating retirement to peaceful meditation and study for several years now, but the Pope insists that he still needs him at the Vatican. Lomeli is maybe a better manager than he is priest. This assessment makes Jacopo uneasy because it feels like a deviation from what he feels his real purpose should be.

    Can a manager truly be close to God? How much closer to Go

    Cardinal Jacopo Lomeli has been contemplating retirement to peaceful meditation and study for several years now, but the Pope insists that he still needs him at the Vatican. Lomeli is maybe a better manager than he is priest. This assessment makes Jacopo uneasy because it feels like a deviation from what he feels his real purpose should be.

    Can a manager truly be close to God? How much closer to God can he get than to be the Dean for the Pope? He is seventy-five years old and serves at the discretion of the Pope. By serving the Pope, he serves God.

    After the initial shock and more than a few prayers, Lomeli suddenly realizes, as the Dean, he is responsible for managing the conclave that will select the next Pope. God have mercy on his soul.

    Managing a conclave is pretty much as terrifying as it seems. The egos of the Cardinals arriving are so large that the room can barely contain the mass of their collective self-esteem. As we all know, they must be sequestered during the conclave to insure that no outside influence can be brought to bear on the process. Despite all the precautions, there are always those who will go to great lengths to circumvent any system. Fervent disagreements arise early in the process as Cardinals jockey for votes, as piously as possible, thinly disguising their most vehement desires to be the most powerful spiritual leader on the planet. Lomeli is unnerved by the spectacle of so much naked aspirations, but at the same time, he is also trying to control his own ambitious pride.

    He doesn’t want to be Pope. He doesn’t, but he does have the name he would use selected if God does call him to serve. As much as Lomeli tells himself and others that he doesn’t want to be Pope, there is a small part of his heart that glows with the possibility.

    As if Lomeli doesn’t have enough to do, an unknown Cardinal shows up claiming that he received the red hat:

    A Pope only does this if the Cardinal is working in an area hostile to Catholicism. Cardinal Benitez is a Filipino by birth but has worked in dangerous areas across Africa. He has the paperwork to prove that the recently departed Pope had named him the Cardinal of Baghdad.

    There is a series of votes without any conclusive leader. There are four main contenders, but each of them has issues that could keep them from obtaining the papacy. I found myself sliding my thumb over the tallies until I’d read the paragraphs leading up to the results. I was on the edge of my seat in similar fashion to when I was watching the movie

    and they were voting on the Emancipation Proclamation.

    As more and more is revealed about the leading candidates, Lomeli finds himself in the uncomfortable position of investigating the various allegations that start to come to light. As he makes these indiscretions known to the Cardinals, it starts to look like Lomeli is meticulously eliminating his competition to be Pope.

    Is he just doing his duty, or is his secret desire guiding his actions? The shocking conclusion(s) to this conclave will rock you on your heels.

    In the course of his novel, Robert Harris had the opportunity to discuss the growing number of Catholics located outside of Europe and their underrepresentation with Cardinal hats. One wonders when that revolution will spark. It makes perfect sense to me that maybe the Pope needs more than one residence. When I think about the Kings/Queens of England and their numerous households scattered about the British Isles, it makes sense that they would spend time at each of these residences to show an interest in their subjects far from London. Maybe the Pope needs an offshoot of the Vatican in South America, for instance, where he would spend a few weeks every year. There is also an interesting discussion about Islam and how we welcome them to our Western countries, but we are certainly not welcome in theirs.

    No one has more influence in the world than the President of the United States. He (I guess I can call him he since there has never been a woman president) can have a positive or a negative impact on the direction of events in the world. As I’ve traveled around Europe, the people of those nations are well aware of the impact the decisions made by the President have on their lives. They wish they had a vote in the process. They count on us as United States citizens to choose wisely. The Pope might be the second most influential man on world events. Certainly world leaders, regardless of their political or religious affiliations, appreciate the support of the Pope in regards to any changes they are trying to make to the lives of their citizens.

    So far 127,253,037 votes have been counted of the people who elected the next President of the United States. Over 2 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than did for Donald Trump, but due to the system put in place by our Founding Fathers, who didn’t really trust the rabble of American voters, the electoral college supersedes the results of the popular vote. Sounds vaguely undemocratic, doesn’t it?

    There are 1.2 billion Catholics across the face of the planet. 41.3% of those Catholics live in South America, almost double the 23.7% that live in Europe. 118 Cardinals (there are more Cardinals than this, but there is a rule that those over 80 years of age cannot vote in the conclave) are sequestered in conclave to decide who will be the next spiritual leader of those 1.2 billion people. You are going to need a lot of zeros after the decimal point before you reach the percentage of representation those 118 embody.

    Here are how the Cardinals break down by country.

    AFRICA - 20 cardinals from 17 countries

    AMERICA - 57 cardinals from 19 countries

    ASIA - 23 cardinals from 11 countries

    EUROPE - 114 cardinals from 24 countries

    OCEANIA - 5 cardinals from 3 countries

    TOTAL - 219 cardinals from 73 countries

    Anybody else see something askew? Europeans hold a huge advantage in electing the Pope, regardless of the number of Catholics they represent. So as undemocratic as this recent United States presidential election feels, it is without contestation way closer to representing the wishes of the people than the process used to determine the leader of the Catholic church.

    I know I’ve drifted away from a standard book review, but this is the result of reading. This book brought up some points which made me curious to explore further. I’ve deepened my understanding of those issues, and that will make me a better reader for books that touch on this same issue in the future. Regardless of how interested you are in the bigger picture, this book is a fantastic, page turning thriller that had me up til 2AM to find out who would be the next Pope. Highly Recommended!

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  • Susan Johnson
    Jan 14, 2017

    4.5 stars

    One of the signs of a great book, to me, is that you feel you are actually living the book. I felt like I was in the middle of the Conclave and actually meeting and greeting the other Cardinals, meditating, plotting and participating in history. Yet it was all fiction. Every bit and still felt so real to me.

    I have read other books about the Conclave so I had the basics down but Harris made it sing in a way that other books haven't. The grind, the boredom, the endless task of followin

    4.5 stars

    One of the signs of a great book, to me, is that you feel you are actually living the book. I felt like I was in the middle of the Conclave and actually meeting and greeting the other Cardinals, meditating, plotting and participating in history. Yet it was all fiction. Every bit and still felt so real to me.

    I have read other books about the Conclave so I had the basics down but Harris made it sing in a way that other books haven't. The grind, the boredom, the endless task of following tradition all lead to a moment when the members hope God speaks to them and gives them insight all come to life under Harris's skilled writing. I would rather poke my eyes out than sit there for endless hours without being able to read which probably explains why I am not a Cardinal, that and I am not Catholic, male or speak Latin.

    The only slightly jarring note to me was the ending. I felt it was just little too pat, a little too politically correct and a little patronizing. The selected Pope had secrets too but why his was OK and others weren't was a puzzle of sorts to me. Still it was kind of fantastic in it's own way. It certainly caught me off guard. I certainly had something else in mind.

    I think this is an excellent read and highly recommend it.

  • ConstantReader Paul O'Neill
    Jan 22, 2017

    Interesting book, thought provoking with a great ending.

    I thought this would be a thriller played against the backdrop of a Conclave. Turns out that it had more depth than I anticipated, with religious theory and the state of the church at the forefront and all the nessecary twists and turns until the church elects its new pope.

    It is a little predicable, but nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable.