Book Reviews: Conclave, Postcards from Greece and All We Shall Know | Books | Entertainment
Robert Harris Hutchinson’s Conclave, £ 20
These are not just any old men, however, they are the 118 members of the conclave of the Roman Catholic Church. They meet after the death of a fictitious pope, in the not-so-distant future, to elect a successor to the papal throne. Cardinal Lomeli is responsible for overseeing the meeting of this 13th century institution in the context of the 21st century.
Almost as soon as the former pope’s death is confirmed, senior members of the Catholic Church have one eye on history and another on their Twitter feed. A cardinal fret:
“We cannot afford to fall behind the news cycle; it would be a disaster. The story begins at breakneck speed and we have a front row seat to the secret conclave meeting. The election of a pope can take place behind closed doors, but Lomeli knows that they are under the spotlight of the world’s media: “Everything ends up fleeing, especially from this place. The gathered cardinals have arrived from all over the world and the meeting is like “the first night of a business convention”.
They complain about the food, their rooms and the gossip among themselves. But such banality masks the struggle for power to become the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and the representative of Christ on Earth. The liberal candidate is the favorite. Bellini is the Secretary of State who defends “respect for other religions and tolerance of divergent points of view within our own Church”. He proclaims himself a reluctant candidate for the Pontiff: “The men who are dangerous – the men who must be arrested – are those who actively desire it.
There is no doubt which of his ambitious rivals he is referring to. Archconservative Tedesco announces that “change almost invariably produces the opposite effect of the improvement it is supposed to bring” and Lomeli notes that Tedesco was a “protege of Ratzinger”. One of the most entertaining aspects of Harris’ book is its blend of fiction with Vatican history, which offers a lot of potential for commentary on the arches.
Nigerian Cardinal Adeyemi sets out to be the first Third World Pope, a candidate who, according to Lomeli, “could win votes in Africa by attacking, as he often did,” the Satan of world capitalism “and” the abomination of homosexuality “but it will lose them in America and Europe”. Then there is the photogenic French-Canadian cardinal Tremblay who looked “like a retired athlete who had made a successful transition to sports presenter” and whom Lomeli deems “unbearable”.
However, the papal court is disturbed by the arrival of the surprise candidate Vincent Benítez, Archbishop of Baghdad. None of them even knew he existed since, for his own safety, he had been secretly appointed by the late Pontiff.
It is perhaps surprising that in a novel in which Harris went to great lengths to ensure accuracy, he instead dodges the fact that a cardinalate created in pectore ceases on the death of a pope unless it has not been publicly proclaimed. Nonetheless, this entertaining and satisfying page turner tells the tense story of the Machiavellian machinations of ambitious men locked in a power struggle that can only end with a puff of white smoke and power.
Postcards From Greece by Victoria Hislop Headline Review, £ 19.99
When Victoria Hislop’s first novel, The Island, was published in 2005, it became an international bestseller and the author was named Newcomer Of The Year at the 2007 British Book Awards. The island was rich in Greek history. , leaping between past and present, and Hislop’s natural flair for storytelling has earned him an army of loyal fans, including myself.
Its latest offering, Postcards From Greece, sticks to that same award-winning formula. Opening today in a seedy apartment in Kensal Rise, northwest London, we meet Ellie Thomas, a single girl with a dead end job selling ad space in a trade magazine. The only color of his life comes in the form of postcards that land in his mailbox week after week from all over Greece: Nafpaktos, Nafplion, Olympia, Sparta.
“They arrived horny, always torn, often almost illegible, as if transported across Europe in a back pocket. Once or twice the ink looked like it had been washed away by rain, wine, or even tears. Sometimes they were bleached by the sun, and the discolored seals showed that their journey had often lasted several weeks.
Although the postcards are addressed to “S Ibbotson”, Ellie is captivated by the scenes they present: a beautiful harbor or the turquoise sea. All are signed with a simple and mysterious “A”. Eager to see these magnificent sites for herself, Ellie embarks on her own Greek adventure. But just before she leaves, she receives one last gift in the mail: “A” ‘s blue leather journal. At this point, “A” takes control of the narrative in the form of excerpts from his diary.
Held by the love of his life at Kalamata Airport, Anthony Brown cannot face a return to dismal London. Instead, he gives his heart time to mend by traveling through Greece and capturing all the delicious sights, smells and sounds he encounters in a journal for his former lover, a certain S Ibbotson.
His own writings are interspersed with stories from Greek history told by the locals he meets. These include an account of Lord Byron’s arrival at Messalonghi and how being exposed to the “evil eye” led to his death soon after.
There is the French bridegroom who is taken hostage and hanged in an Easter tradition and the rejected groom who waits 25 years for revenge. Anthony’s diary acts like a mirror, reflecting the political, financial and social turmoil experienced by Greeks past and present, from Turkish troops invading the country to more recent struggles, including restrictions on withdrawal euros.
To bring the story to life and to explain that picture books aren’t just for kids, Hislop incorporated color photographs of the beautiful Greek landscape into his story. I loved being transported to Greece on the wings of Hislop’s living words and descriptions, but the tale too often jumps between Ellie’s story, Anthony’s story, and the short tales, diluting the three elements. of the book. And I would have liked to know more about Ellie’s experiences in Greece rather than the snapshot of her drinking wine on her balcony.
However, Postcards From Greece has all the elements of a classic reading of Hislop and his dedicated fan base is sure to devour his latest offering.
Everything We Will Know About Donal Ryan Doubleday, £ 12.99
Award-winning Irish writer Donal Ryan returns with the disturbing story of Melody Shee, a 33-year-old married woman who becomes pregnant during an affair with a 17-year-old traveler.
Martin Toppy visited Melody’s house for reading and writing lessons. Stuck in a tumultuous marriage, she found herself magnetically drawn to him. “I lost my mind with Martin Toppy and put my hand in his hair as I leaned over him where he was sitting jotting sentences … then on his face …
I told him with my silence and my eyes that he could kiss me, and he did … “Melody couldn’t carry her husband Pat’s babies to term, but this unexpected pregnancy did is no reason to rejoice. Pat had already betrayed Melody with prostitutes but, devastated, he moved and she found herself isolated.
Melody can’t confide in her frail father and her only visitors are Pat’s vengeful parents and cops after someone threw a brick through her window with the message “Die, bitch” attached. She is lying on the couch, eaten up by morning sickness, reflecting on the mess she has made with her life.
She remembers her withdrawn and difficult mother who poisoned Melody’s relationship with her father. She is also gripped by guilt for abandoning her best friend Breedie to school bullies for the sake of her relationship with Pat.
Breedie committed suicide. Melody’s passion for Pat gradually turned to resentment “but he always stayed with me, and I was terrified of losing him, and we insisted on getting married and lowering ourselves to a bed of pain. terrible, hot and comfortably familiar “.
She later confessed: “I designed these passions, these trials, to convince myself that I was living a life. Even misery was better than boredom. As the nausea subsides, Melody is drawn to the site where Martin lives and she forges a bond with vulnerable teenage Mary Crothery.
Unlike Melody, Mary’s marriage to Buzzy fell apart because she couldn’t conceive. It was a transactional marriage, so Buzzy’s family felt that they were being sold dirty goods, which sparked a brutal and violent feud. Mary is sidelined by her family while Buzzy’s clan pursues her for violence when the opportunity presents itself.
Amidst the chaos, Melody sees a way to right her sins. It seemed out of character to me because, despite all his vulnerability, he is a difficult character to love. But Ryan is a talented, poetic writer who turns this dark, poignant story into a meditation on the human condition and the damage people inflict by following their desires.