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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Careful but unflinching portrait
This is an elegant, sharply intelligent account of Karol Wojtyla's pontificate, a refreshing antidote to the more official and fulsome biographies of him. The author is a respected catholic thinker and academic. He hasn't set out to shock, but to flesh out the complex personality of John Paul II and to relate him to his time- a period of great political change in...
Published on 25 Sep 2007 by Felix Lector

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Pope In Winter
'The Pope In Winter' seemed to be a fairly balanced look at the life and policy of Pope John Paul. I guess any religious biography is going to be controversial and that staunch catholics will be upset at some of the ideas explored here. The one, and main, thing in this books defence is that the author is a catholic and has a great deal of access and experience of...
Published on 20 Jan 2008 by Spider Monkey


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Careful but unflinching portrait, 25 Sep 2007
This review is from: The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy (Paperback)
This is an elegant, sharply intelligent account of Karol Wojtyla's pontificate, a refreshing antidote to the more official and fulsome biographies of him. The author is a respected catholic thinker and academic. He hasn't set out to shock, but to flesh out the complex personality of John Paul II and to relate him to his time- a period of great political change in central Europe and of knife-edged diplomacy and still unresolved conflict in the middle East. Cornwell has his own un-named sources for some previously unknown anecdotage, some of it startling, some amusing. Ultra-conservative catholics may find these Vatican tales a touch scandalous, but they humanise this figure of power and authority, and indeed they seem to ring true when one already knows a bit about the character of Wojtyla before he became Pope. It may be an uncompromising, "warts and all" portrait, and Cornwell is unequivocal about what he sees as the Pope's failings in, for instance, religious pluralism, but he is respectful of his achievements. He details the Pontiff's early visits to his native Poland at the days when the Solidarity movement faced up to the communist-controlled regime. At that time Wojtyla whole-heartedly encouraged the spirit of freedom in his compatriots without overtly urging a people's revolt, and though he could not claim to be the prime mover of the fall of communism, his moral leadership could not be ignored, and his oratory and diplomatic skills, as Cornwell puts it, were "perfect" for the occasion. The book is also realistic about those occasions on which John Paul II and the Holy See appeared to stumble over, or not to react swiftly enough to, controversies that engulfed the church in the late 20th century, such as the child abuse scandal in the USA involving Catholic priests. He also dispassionately analyses Wojtyla's personal viewpoint during the arguments over womens' rights, including the debate over the ordination of women, and sexual health issues such as contraception for AIDS sufferers. What might appear from its back cover quotes to be a calculatedly iconoclastic account turns out to be a thoughtful and immensely readable biography.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Cornwell Triumph, 18 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy (Paperback)
A splendid record of this good man's ups and downs. I've read many books written about John Paul II and most of them are repetitious. This one is refreshingly new. I've read all of Cornwell's books and I have yet to be disappointed.

If you like pope-books, for an eye-opener, get your fingers on Lucien Gregoire's The Vatican Murders:: The Life and Death of John Paul I a newly released biog of the Polish Pope's predecessor, the 33-day Pope. We've heard too much of his mysterious death, finally, the full and only Vatican uncensored record of the life of John Paul I: his childhood, seminary days, priesthood, bishop, cardinal, pope... dead pope - biography plus true crime: Gregoire proves the conspiracy that planned the great Vatican bank scandal was the same conspiracy that plotted the murder of John Paul I.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Pope In Winter, 20 Jan 2008
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Spider Monkey (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy (Paperback)
'The Pope In Winter' seemed to be a fairly balanced look at the life and policy of Pope John Paul. I guess any religious biography is going to be controversial and that staunch catholics will be upset at some of the ideas explored here. The one, and main, thing in this books defence is that the author is a catholic and has a great deal of access and experience of Vatican events. At times some of the chapters rambled and the style wasn't too easy to plow through (hence the 3 stars) but generally it was a good read and put across it's ideas clearly. Some of the more esoteric and philosophical religious ideas were a bit of a chore, but relevant to the overall themes of the book. This book has some excellent colour plate sections showing the pope at various ages and times in his life, some flattering and others less so, but as he was only human it is good to see him in various human poses and situations. The overall message is that Pope John Paul changed the papacy quite dramatically and it explains how. I guess it depends on your own personal views to see whether you feel those changes were positive or negative, but this book goes some way in helping you make that choice. A good read, with some interesting ideas to explore and recommended for a more balanced view of Catholicism and the papacy rather than the glossy image portrayed by the Vatican and it's supporters.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Papacy too far., 8 Nov 2012
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I never was won over by Pope John Paul II and this book confirmed my opinions, authoritarian, centralising and conservative who probably should have retired some years before he died. The book is well written and as far as I could see well researched. It won't appeal to the many but for those of us who felt that John Paul's pontificate was in a certain sense damaging and depressing, they will find they are not alone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars JP two, 7 April 2014
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This review is from: The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy (Paperback)
A wonderful account of the Holy Father,now a saint. Burt why oh why did he supporrt the founder of The Legionnaires Of Christ.>
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, 29 April 2005
A good outline of the previous Pope's 60-year spiritual journey and of the man's inconsistencies and fallibilities, especially in his later years.
As the author states in his preface, this is not an alternate biography of John Paul II - it is a parallel one. It fills in some of the gaps left by the Pope's hagiographers. This is emphatically not just a hatchet-job - JP's role in the downfall of communism in Poland is fully covered - but it does mention many of the incidents in the latter part of his career which the Vatican would doubtless rather cover up, particularly regarding the hardening of attitudes on women, the centralising of papal authority in the hands of the pontiff and the debilitating effect of Parkinson's disease.
Overall, I think this book provides the reader with a fuller and more rounded portrait of a ferociously intelligent, complex, colourful, flawed and very human person.
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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Pope in Winter, 26 Feb 2006
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highfits (oxford england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy (Paperback)
Not a particularly easy read due to the burden of so much historical information. Cornwell is a catholic historian who must stick in the throat of traditionalists.John Paul 11 had a particular interest in human sexuality which the book expounds,making it even more of an anachronism that women's lives should be governed by the decrees of one both celibate and infallible.
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75 of 143 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cornwell's Winter of Discontent, 14 Dec 2004
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Lawrence Lew (Oxford) - See all my reviews
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I bought this book expecting an intelligent and incisive critique of the Pontificate of John Paul II. Buoyed by John Allen's "All the Pope's Men" which was insightful, sensitive and thoughtful, I expected something similar from Cornwell.
Instead I wasted my money (and enriched the author) on a piece of sensationalist ranting. Cornwell's book from start to end is sadly and blatantly biased. Innuendo and snide remarks, of the sort one expects from teenagers who are unhappy with authority, litter the book. Even first-hand accounts of meetings with the Pope are almost entirely negative, painting the image of a man who has become increasingly power and control-mad, senile and dangerous for the Church.
While one may (guardedly) receive Cornwell's views as a counterpoint to the many positive and glowing papal biographies that exist, I cannot help but feel this book has a malicious agenda that simply does the Pope no justice. It certainly is unfitting of any Catholic (such as Cornwell professes to be) to write in such an unjust, uncharitable and biased manner.
In short, read this book for laughs at how the author's personal bias and inability for objective writing totally colours and spoils his writing. And then, store the book with one's toilet paper where it belongs - with its own kind...
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The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy
The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy by John Cornwell (Paperback - 7 April 2005)
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