Review: The Conclave by Robert Harris–UPDATED


I learned of this book while looking for the author’s book Enigma which was recommended by the blogger Books Please.

My Interest

I used to be an avid political junkie. And no where are politics more rife than within the walls of a church or religious denomination! My Dad’s cousin, was a Catholic nun in Chicago. It was long rumored that the first Pope John Paul died of a heart attack or stroke while reading a dossier of the long-time Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, John Cody. My cousin’s stories of him were like listening to stories of that other Chicago legend, Mayor Richard Daley. (There is a funny addition to the John Paul I story early in Conclave that made me laugh).

The other reason this book appealed was my goal for this year of reading more books by men.


The Story

The Pope is dead. The Cardinals of the Catholic Church have been called into conclave to elect the new Pope–the successor to Saint Peter. This story takes place in a fictional “today.” The factions within the Church are on full display. The African and South American church standing out as far more conservative than the Church of the Northern Hemisphere. Within each faction are favorites their followers want to see elected. But suddenly, as the Conclave is starting, a new face, a new Cardinal arrives. His mission, made it necessary for his appointment to be In pectore –done with only the late Pope’s knowledge. [No spoilers] His appointment and other secrets of the now late Pope play out alongside the lobbying of the various factions within the church to advance their candidates. Just as in secular politics, the past comes out for some and secrets stay hidden for others, making this a great big roller coaster ride.

When the modern world intrudes causing a problem for the Conclave, the unity of the church hinges on the Cardinals picking the right man. But will they? When the white smoke finally rises will they truly have the right man for the job? [See a fun clip at the bottom of this post from the t.v. show The Borgias].

My Thoughts

Wow! Political junkie heaven! This was a thrilling story and, if you are worried, the Conclave had to focus only on electing a Pope. 

This book was wonderfully fast-paced. To say more would risk spoilers and I won’t do that.

I cannot wait to read or listen to another book by Robert Harris–probably his book Munich will be next since Jeremy Irons is in the film and I want to see it.

My Verdict


I almost went to 4.5 but …. [no spoilers]

Conclave: A Novel by Robert Harris

I learned of this book while looking for the author’s book Enigma which was recommended by the blogger Books Please.

Note: The child molestation scandal is mentioned in an aside–there is no graphic description of any sexual acts in the story.

I read this book for the 2022 European Reading Challenge hosted by Rose City Reader

ERC 2022

Jeremy Irons was the best Pope ever. Here he is passing the test for office.


4 thoughts on “Review: The Conclave by Robert Harris–UPDATED

Add yours

  1. I enjoyed this too and would never have thought that a book about electing a pope could be so exciting! I’ve loved nearly everything I’ve read by Robert Harris – I haven’t read Munich yet, but can highly recommend An Officer and a Spy.


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