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Universal Father: A Life of Pope John Paul II [Paperback]

Garry O'Connor
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

6 Mar 2006
Pope John Paul II is now universally considered to have been one of the great leaders of the twentieth century and possibly the most politically influential pope since St Peter. His achievements are well documented, yet he once said, 'I can only be understood from the inside.' In this vivid and accessible living portrait, O'Connor investigates the inner man, including Karol Wojtyla's life before he became Pope and his friendships with men and women, subtly analysing the Pope's own poems, plays and philosophical works for clues as to what made him tick. It also dramatically follows his life, from his birth in Poland in 1920, through the losses that shaped his childhood, the assassination attempt in 1981, and his great public confrontations on the world stage, right up until his death in April 2005.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (6 Mar 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747582416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747582410
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 318,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


'I know no other biographer except Boswell who reveals so intimate and vivid a knowledge of the beliefs, certainties, strangenesses, quiddities, strengths and achievements of his subject as does O'Connor.' Sir Harold Hobson (Sunday Times).
Garry O'Connor was born in London into a family of well-known singers. From St Alban's School he won a scholarship to King's College, Cambridge, where he read English and was President of University Actors. He worked in the theatre for a while as a director before reviewing for the Financial Times, and then became a full-time writer. He is married with six children, and lives on a farm on the Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire border.
He has published nearly twenty books; his first biography was that of his great-aunt Dame Maggie Teyte. His Universal Father: A life Of Pope John Paul II has sold worldwide in English-speaking countries, and been translated into Polish and Swedish. It was selected by the Irish Independent as part of its 'Great Biography' collection (2007), marketed with the newspaper. It is now also a Kindle book. A.N. Wilson wrote in the Mail on Sunday, 'O'Connor, whose previous books include superb biographies of Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson and Paul Scofield, is very much at home in this warm portrait of the greatest actor manager of them all.' The Glasgow Herald called it 'A fine, enduring biography'. Damion Thompson's review in the Daily Telegraph claimed that the biography was the 'only life of the late Pope that is an artistic achievement in its own right. None of O'Connor's predecessors has matched his exposition of the literary, philosophical and dramatic sources of John Paul's pontificate, or his nimble untangling of the strands of theological argument.'
Of the theatre lives, Simon Callow in the Financial Times called the Ralph Richardson life, 'A masterpiece'. Darlings of the Gods, the account of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Oliver's marriage and Australian tour of 1948, was filmed in 1991 for television as a three-part mini-series, and shown all over the world. The highly praised biography of Shakespeare (1990, revised in US edition 2001), hailed by Publisher's Weekly as 'a gem', and by the Mail on Sunday as 'illuminating and entertaining', is still in print. Others include his longest work, Sean O'Casey, 'written with tenderness and great technical skill'--Richard Holmes, The Times, and 'well and honestly done and it is highly recommended'--Anthony Burgess, Independent.
Of his most recent works, The Literary Review called O'Connor's second biography of Alec Guinness (The Unknown, 2004) 'A brilliant detective of the truly great actor biographies of our time.' The Independent said it was 'riveting', while the Guardian claimed that O'Connor's openness to Guinness's hitherto unexplored sexuality 'has resulted in a theatrical biography that goes far beyond the reach of such books, and is his best so far'.
The Darlings of Downing Street: the Psycho-Sexual Drama of Power (Politico's 2007), a joint biography of the Blairs during their tenure of power, describes how, according to Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail 'the geo-political game, it seems, was but a sideshow to the Blairs' marital dynamic and Mr Blair's narcissistic urges'. Harry Reid in the Glasgow Herald said that it was 'Eloquent, a climactic tirade, a credible mountain of condemnation...presented with coruscating force.' Geoffrey Goodman said it 'provided a flavour of Blairism in power which is unlikely to be bettered'. But the Blairite Financial Times viewed it as 'the high-water mark of political pornography'. For the Contemporary Review it was 'an interesting perspective on the politics of the UK over the last ten years...[and] a highly entertaining read with countless quotations offering surprising perspectives'. To sum up, the Sunday Express called it 'a highly charged assessment of a pair of ham actors who saw politics as a performance art,' recommending it with five stars.
In the other recent book, the novel Chaucer's Triumph, Penelope Middleboe describes on Booktribes how O'Connor 'takes on Chaucer at his own game--with a cast of tellers, this time on a journey from Leicester to London, teasing out a tale of eroticism and intrigue'. Chaucer's Triumph is Garry O'Connor's triumph,' writes Roger Lewis, 'Epic, comic, pastoral, tragical, and crammed with living energy.' 'O'Connor's greatest achievement,' says the Historical Novel Society, 'is his warm, wise, and humorous portrayal of the poet Chaucer'. Peter Curran on Radio 4 Loose Ends said it 'cries out for television adaptation'. 'This is a book,' comments Faith Magazine, 'I can imagine D.H. Lawrence writing if he were a Catholic.'
Garry O'Connor is working on The Ultimate Doctor Faust, the biography of Hans Frank, the 'Butcher of Poland'. He has just finished a new novel, The Book That Kills. He has written and presented programmes for Radio 4 and 3, adapted his earlier novel about John Donne, Campion's Ghost, for Radio 4, and been interviewed frequently on TV and radio. His website is

Product Description


‘A distinctive, insightful and enjoyable book … conveys a freshness and reverent iconoclasm in his portrait of John Paul’ -- Independent

From the Publisher

The first biography to tell the full and extraordinary story of one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century, setting the private individual in the public context

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very very good 5 May 2009
This is a very compasssionate, respectful biography that seeks to understand the inner man of Karol Wojtyla. Garry O'Connor finds a very good balance between factual information, backround knowledge and some of the thoughts of Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II as expressed in homilies, speeches and his own books. Perhaps one small criticism would be that I feel some of the negative aspects of his pontificate may have been glossed over as his treatment of liberation theology in latin America, or the church's response to the child abuse scandals for example, receive little attention which perhaps detracts from the work's definitiveness. That said, I would still very strongly recommend this book to anyone wanting to gain a sense of the man. Its very well written and the best compliment I can pay to the author is that he actually reflects a little bit of the charisma of the man, especially in the accounts of the first half of his pontificate. I'm very pleased I bought this book as it has increased my knowledge of John Paul II and given me a sense of what sort of man he was like. On the whole a very good portrayal of a beautiful life.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insight into the man - Pope John Paul II 20 July 2005
By A Customer
This is a n extremely readable and interesting insight into the man Pope John Paul II.Sometimes books such as these can be cold and difficult to read.Gerry O'Connor has a relaxed and informative style which allows the reader to get a feel for the real man.From John Paul's early days in the family home through to his 25 years in the Vatican Gerry O'Connor gives a picture of the actor, sportsman and religious.
This is a fascinating and detailed insight into one of the great men of the 20th century.
Highly Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book 8 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellent book really gives an insight into the life of pope John Paul ii. Tells everything about him and would definitely recommended
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just ok! 3 Dec 2009
It's good for people who want to know all the details and facts! It was difficult for me to get interested in this book, however as everyone knows The Life of Pope JohnPaul II was really great!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book 30 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is well written but it didnt give the insight that i expected, In parts it is very hard going
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