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The Shoes of the Fisherman (Vatican Trilogy, Book 1) Paperback – September 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 299 pages
  • Publisher: Toby Press; 40th edition (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1902881834
  • ISBN-13: 978-1902881836
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #807,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

This is a 40th anniversary edition with a special forward by Joy West, wife of the author.

From AudioFile

This 1963 work, which was also adapted for the big screen and starred Anthony Quinn, is an interesting tale of intrigue, deceit, nobility, and a yearning for the divine. In the early 1960s, when the tension of the Cold War is high, the Pope dies. His successor is an obscure Ukrainian bishop, who is also a survivor of 17 years in the Gulag. The temporal and spiritual struggles of the new Pontiff are believable and make this a most intriguing work. Paul Hecht gives a creditable performance in reading this work. His sonorous baritone has a pleasing timbre that gives his reading an aura of great seriousness, yeah, even "gravitas." His voice is clear, and he reads at good pace and with confidence. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2000, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 31 customer reviews
The writing was excellent, lively and picturesque.
I approached this book from the standpoint of a person interested in the Roman Catholic Church's papal traditions.
The wisdom and faith of Kiral are still deeply inspiring.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By David Rasquinha on July 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Morris West is one of those rare authors who can conjure up an excellent book from minimal material. A lot of his works centers around (or is linked with) the Catholic church of which he is an excellent and compassionate portrayer, even when he is being critical.
Shoes of the Fisherman, one of his best, is a heart warming look at the Papacy. Starting with the esoterics of a papal election by acclamation (an unusual procedure) of Kiril Lakota, a virtual unknown, West sees the leader of the church not as the storied infallible pontiff but rather as an earnest human being, beset by his own frailties and needs as well as constrained by the inflexible traditions and bureaucracy of the Vatican. But in focusing on Lakota (and his fellows) as a human being, subject to the same weaknesses of all humanity, West makes one admire him all the more, for his willingness to carry the burden. As the head of a religious organizations that spans the seven continents and hundreds of different cultures, the pope must make huge decisions in lonely abstract while bearing in mind the ordinary man and woman who comprise the church. This is a tremendous responsibility and a near impossible task. In the process West looks at numerous sub-themes that still plague the church (though this book is sited at the peak of the Cold War), of marriage, of theology, of doctrine and of the clergy. He makes no judgments, but in painting the essential humanity of the players, West makes the institution of the church and the papacy not only more accessible to the reader, he also generates a more sympathetic understanding of both. This may not (as previous readers have remarked) be a book with a major plotline, but it is a book that, even at its darkest, maintains faith in humanity. Highly recommended, (though members of other religions may find some of the parts hard to follow).
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book (and the movie which derives from it) is remarkable, all the moreso because of the the amount of inadvertent prophecy that takes place during the course of it. 'Shoes of the Fisherman' is a phrase that is sometimes used to refer to the office of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome; the See of Peter, the Chair of Peter, etc., various other historical and scriptural references are a kind of ecclesial shorthand.

This story takes place during the height of the Cold War, when it was not primarily a two-way confrontation, but rather seemed to threaten to become a three-way contest with the seeming emergence of China as a communist power independent from the Soviet Union. This book sets a looming crisis between the United States and Soviet Union as the primary issue, and concludes with a major conference for peace being called (we do not get to know the outcome of this, however, from the book).

Archbishop Kiril Lakato, longtime political prisoner of the Soviet Union, is released (the exact reasoning for this we are never told) by his long-time captors. He is released to Rome, where he is installed as a cardinal for his faithfulness to the church. In quick succession after this, the pope dies, and an election takes place. Remarkably, Kiril the Russian is elected pope, after giving a moving account of his time in captivity to assembled cardinals weary of the election process, and shortly thereafter commits the church to a risky idea of intervention between the major powers, to the dismay of many of the fellow cardinals, who believe the new pope is following a dangerous path.

Subplots include a very timid (by today's standards), and to a certain extent a bit distracting.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Rowe Hill on April 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is the book on which the 1968 movie, The Shoes of the Fisherman, was based. The movie is vastly different than the book. It would have to be. Much of the book is introspective, reflecting the thought processes of Pope Kiril I after he is elected and is a much drier read than the movie is a view, naturally. While I found the book informative and interesting, because of my interest in the Papacy, it is not an easy read. It took focused concentration to absorb all it had to offer.

In the year this book was originally published, 1963, the real world was full of fear, anger, and starvation (some things never change). The cold war was almost 20 years old, and the West's fear of its consequences unabated. Fear of a nuclear holocaust was rampant; we were getting closer to a ground war in Vietnam. President Kennedy was assassinated in November of that year. Things weren't destined to get much better. The year the movie came out, 1968, we lost Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy to assassins. The real Pope in the real world had his hands full.

The Shoes of the Fisherman is the story of the election of a Russian to the Papacy, one Kiril Lakota, who had been imprisoned in Siberia for 17 years (20 in the movie) and tormented by his jailer, Kamenev, who later becomes the head of the Soviet state. Lakota's ascent to the Papacy, and his actions as Pontiff, are related in this story. We learn about some of the Pope's brethren, Cardinal Leone and Cardinal Rinaldi, for example, who impart their own histories and personality traits to one another and, hence, to the reader. The George Faber of the book is very different than the one portrayed on film. One desperate world situation is dealt with in the film. In the book, there are many.
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