Feminism and the Catholic Church: A Review of The Lost Pope by Glenn Cooper
Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.
Special hello goes out to Denver, Colorado! Every time I check my site visit map there are about five different dots around Denver. It has been like that for over a year. Thanks for reading, Denver, glad you’re here.
We have another super special review today. Today’s review is brought to you by Novel Suspects Insider’s Club; they aren’t paying me for my review they just sent me the book for free. Thank you so much to Novel Suspects and Grand Central Publishing for sending me an advanced copy of today’s book. You know I love it when y’all send me books.
And what are you reviewing today, Hannah? Why, I have another religious thriller for ya. Honestly, if you told 2020 Hannah just how many religious adjacent books she’s read and reviewed on RHRML, she’d laugh in your face. Anyway, this religious thriller, and subject of today’s review, is The Lost Pope by Glenn Cooper. The Lost Pope is set to release on June 6, 2023.
The TL;DR of this review is the novel is slow at first but fully engrossing. This book is not without its faults, but it did make the feminist in me very happy. With that, let’s get to the synopsis.
As always, a spoiler alert is in order. Long term readers know I love to spoil the majority of the books I read. I also should issue a content warning. The Lost Pope has quite a few misogynistic characters who spew a lot of bullshit at times. These characters are also homophobic. While nothing is expressly said, it’s there in the subtext. Synopsis time now.
The main focus of The Lost Pope is on Samia Tedros. She is working as a museum conservator in Cairo, and has fallen into a not so great crowd. You see, her younger sister needs a kidney. The only way to get one though is to pay 25,000 dollars. Samia’s family doesn’t have the money so she is forced to team up with a shady antiquities dealer. This man forces her to steal from the museum she works at and ultimately destroy an exquisite death mask all for one tiny bit of papyrus.
I hear you asking, “why is this papyrus so important?” Because the words written on it are about to change history forever. Let’s just say the OG Catholic Church said “feminism.” This leads to those misogynists I mentioned earlier. Some extremely wealthy members of the Church learn about the papyrus Samia found and set out to buy it. The goal is to secretly buy this piece of history and keep it buried and/or destroy it.
Simultaneously, a new Pope has been elected and has appointed Sister Elisabetta Celestino as his Secretary of State. Unsurprisingly, those wealthy misogynists don’t want a woman in a position of power within the Church and are ready to force Sister Elisabetta out of her position. How dare a capable, qualified woman have an important job!
Anyway, murder, mayhem, espionage, forgery, and many other crimes ensue as two sects are formed. One hellbent on suppressing this historical find from seeing the light of day and keeping the Church a boys club. The other believing the exact opposite and set on proving the papyrus piece is genuine thus moving the Catholic Church into the 21st century.
This thriller really said feminism. I wasn’t anticipating it, but I am pleasantly surprised. Always love it when that happens. The feminism is truly what kept me engrossed in this read.
Not gonna lie though, I had a hard start with this one. I felt it began very slow. Nothing happens in the first few chapters. A lot of what occurs is just characters going about their day and their introductions. There’s no hook if I’m being honest. It takes nearly 50 pages until the papyrus is found. Everything before that is purely introduction. I promise the pace does pick up and the read becomes very interesting, this one just takes a little while getting there and could use a tad bit more streamlining in the beginning.
Speaking of streamlining, The Lost Pope suffers from Too Many Character Syndrome. I don’t know who Spooner is and at this point I’m too afraid to ask. I swear there’s like 50 characters in this thing. I needed to make myself a flowchart to keep them straight. I don’t know if it would have helped though.
While I’m discussing characters I should bring up this one other point. The Lost Pope is the second thriller I’ve read where someone is in love with a nun. Why are we lowkey making nuns into Manic Pixie Dream Girls? To be fair, I don’t think Manic Pixie Dream Girl is really the correct term to use here but I don’t have the right words to describe this part of the thriller. I guess some better phrasing would be Grumpy Man’s Unrequited Love Interest is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl Adjacent Nun. I just have questions. Mainly why? Also I just wanted to include this in today’s post:
I must say this in the book’s favor, Glenn Cooper has intricately woven this thriller together. Despite the slow start and Too Many Characters Syndrome, I imagine readers will be enthralled by this novel. Glenn Cooper is a masterful writer with the insane capability to juggle so many moving parts. Seriously, I could not guess what was going to happen next. In this case, it’s a sign of a really good book.
I do have one final issue with this book. Glenn Cooper shifts between the past and the present throughout the thriller. I know why the author did it. There needs to be an explanation as to how the papyrus ended up in a death mask. I understand that and support the inclusion of those scenes; thankfully those ones happen early on in the novel. But once they happen, there is no reason for any more scenes set in 67 CE. Yet there are a small handful of scenes where readers are transported to the past.
Their inclusion is unnecessary. They don’t offer anything to the plot. In fact, they took me out the main story. When I was reading The Lost Pope, and I was reading it late at night, I would stop if I stumbled across one.
I know it sounds like I hated this thriller, but I enjoyed it 90% of the time. The other 10% represents the slow beginning and flashbacks that I could have lived without. Really, this was a great read and I’d recommend it if you enjoy some history with your mysteries.
With that, I must bid you all adieu. Thank you again to Novel Suspects and Grand Central Publishing for sending me an advanced copy of The Lost Pope. It means so much to me that someone out there wants to send me book. Thank you so much. As for what I have planned for next week, I have another new review for ya!
Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.