It’s Reading day!

The days I do book recs are always fun for me, and I thought I’d give this one a twist by adding a theme: PAPAL THINGS. I have long been fascinated by papal history; the intricate plots of Vatican politics are far beyond even the abilities of the most diabolical thriller writer to conjure. So much power! So much intrigue! If you feel the same, here are a few books that might interest you.

*THE NUNS OF SANT’AMBROGIO. Don’t be put off by the heft. Hubert Wolf does a masterful job of relating the dark deeds behind convent walls in 19th century Italy. It all begins with a novice–born a German princess–who insists she’s being poisoned by the novice mistress. From there it spins out into a story about holy visitations, sacred mysteries, secret love affairs, blackmail, and murder. It’s superbly written–and tremendous credit to the translator as well. Here’s a great review from the Independent that actually uses the phrase “lesbian killer nuns”.

*THE POPE AND MUSSOLINI. David Kertzer’s newest chronicles the long and intricate relationship between Pope Pius XI and Mussolini. (Kertzer also wrote an excellent book–PRISONER OF THE VATICAN–about the papal withdrawal to the Vatican after the unification of Italy. Did you know that for 59 years, the popes didn’t leave the Vatican? They refused even to set foot in St. Peter’s square or give blessings from the balcony of the basilica.) Kertzer was able to draw upon newly-released documents covering the activities leading up to and through WWII–documents that disprove MUCH of what people have believed to be true about Vatican attitudes towards fascism and Mussolini in particular. This one just won the Pulitzer and it was WELL deserved.

*MISTRESS OF THE VATICAN by Eleanor Herman. Chronicling the life of Olimpia Maidalchini, the sister-in-law of Pope Innocent X, Herman’s book explores the life of a woman who loomed large on the international stage. She crafted policy, made appointments, and even influenced the outcome of papal conclaves. Innocent may have reigned, but Olimpia ruled, and she is a woman who deserves not to be forgotten.

Still looking for a book fix? Check out Penguin’s First to Read program! You can get information, excerpts, and even galleys of the hottest books before they hit the shelves.


2 thoughts on “It’s Reading day!”

  1. I loved Mistress of the Vatican. I actually interviewed Eleanor Herman when the book came out on the blog.

  2. Betty Strohecker says:

    As an offshoot of papal intrigue, I would recommend a series of historical mysteries by S. J. Parris that feature real life monk Giordano Bruno who has to flee his Italian monastery because he is too smart for the time and loves BOOKS. In the opening of Heresy, he has hidden a book in the bathroom where he ventures to read. Reported by another monk, Bruno must flee or be brought before the Inquisition. He makes his way to England where he hooks up with his friend Sir Philip Sydney and finds himself in the service of Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. The other books are Prophecy, Sacrilege, and Treachery. Each involve a murder or murders among the rich and privileged. While not necessary to read these in order, it helps as relationships build in some instances. Excellent historical facts and personnages in each one.

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