This books was one of the most enjoyable biographies I have read in a long time. It documents the rise of Cardinal Chiaramonti to his long papacy as His Holiness Pius VII. Professor Anderson's work is well researched and delightfully written. Not only does the author narrate the harsh captivity of the Pope under Napoleon, first at Savona and then at Fontainbleau, but he brings in the wider political trends of the period, detailing the intense struggle Pius faced in the Gallican bishops and the 'Enlightened' thought that swept Europe. The Pope's chief cardinal-advisors are also tied into the biography; of particular interest is Cardinal Consalvi's positive negotiations with the British government after Napoleon's fall, and his attempts to secure greater liberties to British Catholics.
The political and social climates were not friendly to the Church even after the collapse of the first French Empire. The Church had to negotiate its place with new modern states. Here, Pius VII shined brilliantly, trying to steer a 'middle way' that would not antagonize his adversaries to rebellion. His attempts to reintegrate the Faith with secular government as far as possible without compromising Catholic Doctrine was a lifelong task, and was able to restore much of the Church's presence in France by the end of his life. Pius VII was a truly saintly man and navigated one of the most difficult periods of Church history with patience, faith and trust in God's Holy Will- this book is an inspiration!