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The Pope's Rhinoceros Paperback – 3 Feb 1997
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"Bawdy baroque-punk prose of marvellous fluency, overlaid with a gloss of heavy-weight erudition... an astonishing achievement, little short of a masterpiece" (William Dalrymple Independent on Sunday)
"A gargantuan, dazzling fable by Britain's brightest young writer" (Steven Poole Guardian)
"A story of adventure enthralling in its scope and inventiveness, by turns comic and horrific, zestful and elegaic, involving a reclusive order of monks whose church is slowly sliding into the sea; Renaissance Rome with its sexual license and political rivalries; war and atrocity in the Central Italian States; and a remote tribe in the West African rain forest. Running through this variegated fable is the search for the rhinoceros. The exuberance, the sheer proliferation of incident and scene, are disciplined and controlled by unerring narrative pace and cunning" (Barry Unsworth Daily Telegraph)
"A truly fabulous piece of new British fiction" (James Saynor Observer)
'Spell-binding entertainment, richly imagined, painstakingly researched, superbly paced and utterly gripping' - Michael Dibdin, Independent on SundaySee all Product description
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A brilliantly enjoyable read, although not for the commitment-shy reader. Make time for this book and it will reward you in spades.
The sequence in Africa was like something out of H Rider Haggard (I was a great fan of his books when I was young), yet various characters' motives were never explained. Why the long description of lost wax bronze casting? Why were animals and some characters cast adrift on rafts? Perhaps the author knew but he didn't tell his readers, or was I not clever enough to follow him?
Sometimes it was very funny, sometimes grim.
His decriptions of what happened at Prato, a real historical massacre, were very restrained but still horrifying.
Unfortunately the final scenes in Rome descended in farce, making me wonder if persevering for 600 pages had really been worth it!
For me the final verdict of a book is, would I look out for another book by this author? And in the case of Lawrence Norfolk I'm not sure; maybe, but not for a long while yet.
If not, give it to your least favourite aunt for Christmas.
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