I picked up a copy of Andrew M. Greeley’s White Smoke: A Novel of Papal Election at our local Friends of the Library bookstore. The pope had announced that he was stepping down a couple of days before I saw the book, and I thought that it was an appropriate read. I am not Catholic, and I am not familiar with many of the specifics of Catholicism, but this novel interested me. This is the first of Greeley’s novels that I have read.
White Smoke begins with an article about the upcoming conclave and the decisions facing the cardinals. The narrative trades back and forth between several characters, interspersed with snippets from news reports. Part love story, part adventure, mostly political intrigue, the story covers the events leading up to the conclave and finishes with the election of a new pope.
Though this novel was written almost 20 years ago, many of the issues that face the Catholic Church in the novel still face it today. The carefully orchestrated maneuvering to influence the election was fascinating to me, more so than the adventure and love story bits. Parts of the novel dragged a bit, but I found it overall an interesting read.