Author: Robert Harris
Genre: Historical Fiction / Religion / Mystery
Year of Publication: 2016
ISBN: 0451493443 (ISBN13: 9780451493446)
The Vatican is rushed into assembling the “Conclave” in order to elect the successor of the recently deceased Pope. As the cardinal from across the globe start gathering, politics starts taking over; lobbyists become active and skeletons start coming out of the holy closets of main contenders of the Elite title. This book chronicles the Election of the new Pope and the difficulties faced by the Conclave in reaching the final decision.
“Any man who is truly worthy must consider himself unworthy.” – Robert Harris (quoted from “Conclave”)
Sometimes you hit upon a book which you fall in love with and when you look it up on the internet, you find out that people, in general have not appreciated it as much. On the contrary, sometimes you come across a book on the internet which carries rave reviews. You get impressed, buy the book, go through it and keep on waiting to be hit by the acclaimed brilliance … but it never happens.
In both scenarios, you end up confused about your ability to critically evaluate a book. You find yourself thinking if you have missed something which got a unanimous verdict by the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, “Conclave” by Robert Harris falls in the later category for me. The book carries excellent reviews everywhere I checked, but though I tried my best, I couldn’t find any reason to be exhilarated or impressed by the uni-dimensional and shallow plot.
On the positive side, the author makes sure the proceedings are well understood and make complete sense even to a person who is not at all familiar with the setting.
On the positive side, I have to admire the detail with which the author creates the environment. My biggest apprehension before starting the book was my ability to absorb the linguistics and logistics of the life in Vatican. The author doesn’t only succeed in making the reader get comfortable with the whole physical setup, but also makes sure the proceedings are well understood and make complete sense even to person who is not at all familiar with the setting.
The frequency with which similar situations got repeated didn’t help much in improving the overall experience.
The thing which actually bothers me is the fact that despite getting absorbed into the world of the “Conclave” and life of its characters, I still couldn’t find the plot to ignite an intellectual illumination or an adrenaline rush. This was not a long story by any means, yet the frequency with which similar situations got repeated didn’t help much in improving the experience.
There were two twists towards the climax. I had concluded one of those even before the mid-point of the book, which the other seemed absolutely irrelevant and immaterial to me. That’s where the book really disappoints; it was embarrassingly predictable and alarmingly shallow.
There are certain elements which are so politically correct that they scream out their cliched nature.
The honesty with which negative personality attributes of all the cardinals have been highlighted is commendable, but it doesn’t go any deeper than that. It refrains from taking any further risks and plays it safe from there onward. There are certain elements which are so politically correct that they scream out their cliched nature. Probably, after dwelling into personal biases and sinuous weaknesses of the Cardinals, the author perhaps purposely avoided any further blasphemy to the Church.
Overall, the book was too safe and predictable for me to admire it beyond its atmospheric descriptions.