Saturday, August 15, 2009

Book Review: The Death of a Pope


Several weeks ago, I saw an interview with Piers Paul Read on EWTN's World Over and I was fascinated. He is a British, Roman Catholic, author best known for his work of nonfiction, Alive: The Story of the Andes Surviors and his authorized biography on Alec Guiness. Read was appearing on EWTN to promote his latest novel, The Death of a Pope.

The Death of a Pope is a fictional thriller set against the backdrop of the death of John Paul II and the elevation of Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI. The plot is heavily reliant upon the division between traditionalists and progressives within the Church, which I found quite intriguing and thought provoking. While I understand and agree wholeheartedly with Church teaching regarding contraception, how best to address the AIDS epidemic, female ordination, etc, Read's book gave me a glimpse into the thinking of those who disagree with those particular teachings. Read does a wonderful job showing how misplaced compassion and poor spiritual formation lead progressives down the road to embracing dissident ideologies, most notably Liberation Theology.

I am not usually a fan of contemporary literature or authors. I much prefer writers in the mold of Jane Austen or Elizabeth Gaskell, but his interview with Raymond Arroyo compelled me to give Read a try. As far as literature goes, The Death of a Pope is a quick and easy read. It is a decent thriller and the style is interesting. I have do a couple little quibbles. For one, I could not understand why one particular character in the story gives away most of the entire end game to a character he has just met. The plot involves a terrorist type use of poisonous gas, and political intrigue and it made absolutely no sense to me that he would just expose the entire scheme to a woman he did not even know. My second quibble has to do with how much adult content is contained in the novel. While it was integral to the plot, it is just a personal wish of mine to not read that kind of stuff. I do understand that without that particular story element it would have been unrealistic and a main character's ensnaring into the scheme would have been a huge stretch, but this is exactly why I stay away from contemporary lit. I'd rather read about relationships and characters that remain proper, pure, and platonic.

For a quick, summer, thriller pick up a copy of The Death of a Pope, but due to the adult content I would recommend this particular novel for adults only.
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