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The Devil's Advocate, Morris West's best-selling novel, is a deft exploration of the meaning of faith. In an impoverished village in southern Italy, the life and death of Giacamo Nerone has inspired talk of saint­hood. Father Blaise Meredith, a dying English priest, is sent from the Vatican to investigate—and to try to untangle the web of facts, rumors, and outright lies t The Devil's Advocate, Morris West's best-selling novel, is a deft exploration of the meaning of faith. In an impoverished village in southern Italy, the life and death of Giacamo Nerone has inspired talk of saint­hood. Father Blaise Meredith, a dying English priest, is sent from the Vatican to investigate—and to try to untangle the web of facts, rumors, and outright lies that surround Nerone's life and death. With spiritual frailty as a backdrop, The Devil's Advocate reminds us how the power of goodness ultimately prevails over despair.


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The Devil's Advocate, Morris West's best-selling novel, is a deft exploration of the meaning of faith. In an impoverished village in southern Italy, the life and death of Giacamo Nerone has inspired talk of saint­hood. Father Blaise Meredith, a dying English priest, is sent from the Vatican to investigate—and to try to untangle the web of facts, rumors, and outright lies t The Devil's Advocate, Morris West's best-selling novel, is a deft exploration of the meaning of faith. In an impoverished village in southern Italy, the life and death of Giacamo Nerone has inspired talk of saint­hood. Father Blaise Meredith, a dying English priest, is sent from the Vatican to investigate—and to try to untangle the web of facts, rumors, and outright lies that surround Nerone's life and death. With spiritual frailty as a backdrop, The Devil's Advocate reminds us how the power of goodness ultimately prevails over despair.

30 review for The Devil's Advocate

  1. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    In the canonization process of the Roman Catholic Church, the ‘Promoter of the Faith’ popularly known as the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ is the priest whose job it is to argue against whoever has been proposed for sainthood. Morris West’s The Devil's Advocate takes place in late 1950’s or pre-Vatican II era, Calabria, Italy, the ‘toe of the boot’ for those not so familiar with Italian geography. During this time of apparent calm in Church history—the uneasy quiet before the storm unleashed by the many mi In the canonization process of the Roman Catholic Church, the ‘Promoter of the Faith’ popularly known as the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ is the priest whose job it is to argue against whoever has been proposed for sainthood. Morris West’s The Devil's Advocate takes place in late 1950’s or pre-Vatican II era, Calabria, Italy, the ‘toe of the boot’ for those not so familiar with Italian geography. During this time of apparent calm in Church history—the uneasy quiet before the storm unleashed by the many misunderstandings which grew out of the Second Vatican Council—the tiny hamlet town of Gemello Minore a-top a twin peaked mountain in one of the poorest areas of Southern Italy seems an unlikely place for a saint or miracles, but then God has a habit of using the most ordinary people and places to do the most extraordinary things. Our devil’s advocate is dying and has been summoned by Rome for one last assignment. In the 1977 West German film version of the book—which I’ve only been able to read about but haven’t been able to obtain—the British actor, John Mills plays the terminal padre. In fact, Monsignor Blaise Meredith is a British Roman Catholic priest living in Rome and working as auditor to the Sacred Congregation of Rites, personal assistant to the prefect himself. ‘He had been twenty years a priest, vowed to the affirmation that life was transient imperfection, the earth a pale symbol of the maker, the soul an immortal in mortal clay beating itself weary for release into the ambient arms of the Almighty. Now that his own release was promised, the date of deliverance set, why could he not accept it—if not with joy, at least with confidence?’ (pp.7-8) From the Monsignor, we move to the village of Gemello Minore and its cast of characters: the dead martyr himself, the bishop who has proposed his ‘cause’, the local priest and his ‘housekeeper’, the Jewish doctor who has struggled for acceptance and understanding, the “saint’s” mistress and bastard teenage son, the aging heiress and her uneasy alliance with a rogue artist. As Meredith proceeds with his investigation, each person must come to terms with secrets or disclosures which he or she might rather not—some like wounds long in need of dressing, others more like being led from darkness into bright sunshine—initially painful, but ultimately healing. An engrossing read from start to finish both in terms of characterizations as well as a snapshot in time. I wouldn’t classify this as an exciting book, but rather as a thoughtful one; the plot is negligible and almost non-essential. However, what The Devil’s Advocate lacks in speed, it more than compensates for in depth and beauty. Highly recommended as a beautiful tribute to the priesthood for this Year For Priests. ><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>< Another incredible book... I want to let the story settle before I write a review. I'm going back and forth between 4.5 and 5 stars. I'll probably end up giving it a 5. It really is a wonderful book. I love this series! Even more, I like the fact that most of these authors have written many other books, some of which I know. In addition to this book made into a West German film in 1977 starring John Mills, which seems to be unavailable -- more's the pity -- Morris West also wrote The Shoes of the Fisherman which is still around. I have seen it, although not recently.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    I'm reading this for the Elements of Faith book club. It is the story of a disillusioned English priest who is dying but is asked to take on one last task ... that of being the Devil's Advocate in investigating a possible case for sainthood. Traditionally, the Vatican would assign someone to look into the good reasons for beatification and also assign a different person to raise all the reasons against beatification. (It is an old system that was discarded in modern times but which has just been I'm reading this for the Elements of Faith book club. It is the story of a disillusioned English priest who is dying but is asked to take on one last task ... that of being the Devil's Advocate in investigating a possible case for sainthood. Traditionally, the Vatican would assign someone to look into the good reasons for beatification and also assign a different person to raise all the reasons against beatification. (It is an old system that was discarded in modern times but which has just been reinstated by Pope Benedict. It seems like a good idea to me for obvious reasons.) At any rate, the priest has been assigned the task not only because he would be good at the job but because his superior hopes it will help him spiritually. Face to face with eternity, the priest has had to admit that he has lived a lukewarm life, one without passion. I have read this before and am looking forward to this second reading and the chance to discuss it with fellow Catholics. I have just begun and am immediately struck by how well West brings us into the atmosphere of the Italian countryside, not to mention the clerical attitudes of the time. Finished and I really cannot express adequately what a masterpiece this book is in so many ways, but first and foremost in examining the good and bad in human nature (often within the same person) and our institutions, the depth of the human soul, and our capacity for faith and change. All this without resorting to miracles or God speaking, except through those same human beings. Amazing and highly recommended. I'm really looking forward to discussing this one next week at Elements of Faith book club.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I picked this up on a whim-- actually, I saw it for sale for $1 and decided what the heck-- It turned out to be a real page-turner, it's just really well-written and enjoyable... One of the reviews on the inside cover say it somehow manages to be as exciting as a murder mystery, and I think that's right, which is surprising given its about a priest who goes to a small Italian village to decide whether a recently diseased man ought to be canonized. The only real issue I have with it is that the e I picked this up on a whim-- actually, I saw it for sale for $1 and decided what the heck-- It turned out to be a real page-turner, it's just really well-written and enjoyable... One of the reviews on the inside cover say it somehow manages to be as exciting as a murder mystery, and I think that's right, which is surprising given its about a priest who goes to a small Italian village to decide whether a recently diseased man ought to be canonized. The only real issue I have with it is that the ending wraps things up really swiftly-- (SPOILER ALERT) in the last few dozen pages, it seems like the author is kinda hurrying to a close, getting all the loose ends tied up really conveniently, having the main character run around solving things-- That was the impression I got, anyway. But I feel like I will need to revisit my thoughts on this book at a later time-- I just finished reading it yesterday, and I think my true review will take some thought. But anyways, it's a book I'd read again.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Christian Engler

    Morris West's--The Devil's Advocate--is a perennial literary classic thriller that is an intermixture of politics and religion, which explores the behind-the-process investigative scenes of Catholic saint making. But that is really only the backdrop to the totality of the story, for the real narrative deals with the world weary and cynical English devil's advocate, Fr. Blaise Meredith, a man who has been informed that due to an illness, his life expectancy has been shortened. With such a blow, h Morris West's--The Devil's Advocate--is a perennial literary classic thriller that is an intermixture of politics and religion, which explores the behind-the-process investigative scenes of Catholic saint making. But that is really only the backdrop to the totality of the story, for the real narrative deals with the world weary and cynical English devil's advocate, Fr. Blaise Meredith, a man who has been informed that due to an illness, his life expectancy has been shortened. With such a blow, he submissively complies to that which he can not prevent from happening: death. He passively waits for it, dismissing his environment and the people contained within it, thus causing a premature emotional death, stunting him before actual physical death seizes him. As such, his 'boss' Eugenio Cardinal Marotta, tries to get him out of his self-made rut, something created long before his illness came into the scene. And it is an observation duly noted by Marotta, when he states on page 37, "...Part of the problem is that you and I and others like us have been removed too long from pastoral duty. We have lost touch with the people who keep us in touch with God. We have reduced the faith to an intellectual conception, an arid assent of the will, because we have not seen it working in the lives of common folk. We have lost pity and fear and love. We are the guardians of mysteries, but we have lost the awe of them. We work by canon, not by charity..." Over the course of time, Blaise Meredith lost something within himself, the mystery of what brought him into religious life in the first place, that spark of Divine influence which ignited his actions, the excitement, the possibility, the allure; what he clung to was a partial illusion instead of the reality, and so, bit-by-bit, he gradually crumbled until his feelings became ashes and dust rather than his body. Yet, that is the beauty of humanity, for we each raise each other up when necessary, and Fr. Meredith is no exception. But he is raised up not by a living soul, but a departed one, a martyred witness whose cause for canonization he must investigate. But for him, it is yet another albatross around his neck, for he is of the belief that the world could do with more churches and better attendance than another holy rollar saint. However, the man whom he must investigate--Giacomo Nerone--appears anything but saintly, which in its own right is quite refreshing. But his adherence to the doctrine of the Church, even onto death, is what elevates him to the possibilities of the honor of the alter. The story surrounding Nerone and those who knew him slowly and intricately revives the devil's advocate's own faith. And his soul is gradually restored. West's novel can be dissected on many levels and the characters that are gradually introduced are by all accounts flawed in their own very unique manner, for nothing is held back. But no matter how reprehensible some of the characters and situations may be, there is corrective redemption that is available; some take it and others do not, but for those who do, one can not but sigh with a degree of relief. As noted in the author biogrphy, The Devil's Advocate was awarded the Royal Society's William Heinemann Award, the National Brotherhood Award from the National Council of Christians and Jews as well as the James Tait Black Memorial Award. And for me, upon completion of the book, an understanding of the universal acclaim that it has received since its publication.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette Grant-Thomson

    Three and a half stars, I think. This book would possibly have more appeal for Catholics but is an interesting story for most people. It was first published in 1959 and its Catholicism plus the time it was written make it a dated read. The story kept me reading. Giacomo Nerone, a man who lived for a season in a small Italian village, has been nominated for sainthood. It is Blaise Meredith's job, as Devil's Advocate, to disprove the saintly claims. Meredith is also a man rapidly dying of cancer an Three and a half stars, I think. This book would possibly have more appeal for Catholics but is an interesting story for most people. It was first published in 1959 and its Catholicism plus the time it was written make it a dated read. The story kept me reading. Giacomo Nerone, a man who lived for a season in a small Italian village, has been nominated for sainthood. It is Blaise Meredith's job, as Devil's Advocate, to disprove the saintly claims. Meredith is also a man rapidly dying of cancer and appalled by the emptiness of his life. The characters are a varied group and held my interest. I was reminded of groups of expatriates in a third world country with the unlikely friendships forged among the simple village people. Meredith's journey kept my interest too. One thing stood out - how times have changed - in relation to issues like homosexuality. Some readers today may find West's portrayal of the gay man offensive and very traumatic. The point of view is sometimes omniscient, other times through various characters. I felt the style was hindered by West's tendency to name characters, nearly all the time, by their full titles and Christian and surnames. This added to a sense of formality, possibly intentional. It also slowed the pace and gave a ponderous feel to the prose. However - I actually enjoyed the book!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeanie

    I had seen this author on my mother's bookshelves when I was little, so expected it to read like "popular fiction". I have now read 2 Morris West books, and I think when the 20th century reaches the "classic literature" stage, Morris West will be one of the writers whose names and works remain in circulation. Set in the rural mountains of Italy, this very powerful novel tells of an aging and ill Vatican leader's last gift to his community. Crossing religions, class and politics, this story of ol I had seen this author on my mother's bookshelves when I was little, so expected it to read like "popular fiction". I have now read 2 Morris West books, and I think when the 20th century reaches the "classic literature" stage, Morris West will be one of the writers whose names and works remain in circulation. Set in the rural mountains of Italy, this very powerful novel tells of an aging and ill Vatican leader's last gift to his community. Crossing religions, class and politics, this story of old secrets and new (self) discovery is pure literary art. I highly recommend it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eric Wright

    Although the writing in this book contains much more description and lengthy conversation than I am used to, I found it engaging and very well written. The cast of characters is engaging and the moral dilemmas that they encounter are challenging. In a sense, the Christian faith, atheism, and the institutional Roman Catholic Church are challenged. The challenges become very real and personal to each of the characters. The setting in Southern impoverished Italy, post war. Giacomo Nerone, killed by Although the writing in this book contains much more description and lengthy conversation than I am used to, I found it engaging and very well written. The cast of characters is engaging and the moral dilemmas that they encounter are challenging. In a sense, the Christian faith, atheism, and the institutional Roman Catholic Church are challenged. The challenges become very real and personal to each of the characters. The setting in Southern impoverished Italy, post war. Giacomo Nerone, killed by communists in spite of all the help he had given to the villagers. Is he a saint or a military deserter, father of an illegitimate child? Blaise Meredith, mortally ill English priest, of an apparently cold character, sent by Vatican as the devil’s advocate to examine the saintliness of Giacomo Aurelio, Bishop of Valenta, befriends Blaise and expresses unusual intellectual and human understanding coupled with practical instincts in agriculture, etc. Dr. Aldo Meyer is a Jewish/English doctor who mysteriously ends up in this backwater where his talents and attempts to help the peasants are rebuffed. He is discouraged and disillusioned. What part did he play in Giacomo’s execution by partisans? Nina Sanduzzi, a simple village woman loved by Giacomo who becomes his lover Paolo Sanduzzi, bastard son of Giacomo and Nina Nicholas Black, artist, twin, frustrated, angry. Padrona, the Contessa, also frustrated in life and loves but the resident of the big estate. The book is set in Calabria just after the second world war in a place and time where the general population were struggling with deep poverty. By contrast we catch glimpses into the privileged life of the local padrona. The book deals with huge questions. What is a saint? Must a saint be celibate, or is love part of what makes a man a saint? The writing is affecting, especially when West sketches a character, in this case, Blaise Meredith. “There is no passion in your life, my son. You have never loved a woman, nor hated a man, nor pitied a child. You have withdrawn yourself too long and you are a stranger to the human family…”p. 38. In discussing the bishop’s orange grove, Meredith asks; “What have oranges got to do with the human soul?” “Everything,” said the bishop flatly. “You can’t cut a man in two and polish up his sould while you throw his body in the trash heap…” p. 137

  8. 4 out of 5

    Victor Bonini

    In general, not a book that surprised me. On the contrary: it pretty much bored me from beginning to end, not containing a single fact that I actually hadn't foreseen. The good: there are some inteligent reflexions about religion and human nature that aroused my thoughts. Some of them are old-fashioned (since it is a book published in 1959), but I overlooked them and tried to get the sense out of them. Philosophically speaking, it was the book's highlight. The bad: as I said, it is predictable and In general, not a book that surprised me. On the contrary: it pretty much bored me from beginning to end, not containing a single fact that I actually hadn't foreseen. The good: there are some inteligent reflexions about religion and human nature that aroused my thoughts. Some of them are old-fashioned (since it is a book published in 1959), but I overlooked them and tried to get the sense out of them. Philosophically speaking, it was the book's highlight. The bad: as I said, it is predictable and I didn't connect to the characters as I wish I had. Some of them are supposed to be deep, but they aren't. The only two that got my attention were Meredith and Giacomo -- but I think this last one lacks flaws and real human personality. I mean, Meredith was supposed to be the Devil's Advocate, right? But instead he (and everyone else) only worships a man that, apparently, is perfect and divine in every way. Why not turn him into a saint before in the first place? The argument there just didn't convince me. I mean, when Meredith arrives at Gemelo Minore, didn't people say it would be hard to discover the true story behind Giacomo Nerone's name? It didn't seem hard at all for me. This fact annoyed me and had me waiting for some real psychology behind those plain characters that could explain that plain story. Well, I'm gonna say I finished the book still waiting for that...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katie King

    A very satisfying and very dated novel. Perhaps satisfying because so dated. Makes it clear that for particular constituencies their alliances and differences keep shifting in subtle ways that matter, even if overall rather similar. In this case the attitude toward homosexuality by the protagonist is left at the end in some disarray, and without a final judgement. It's not "liberatory" but quite fascinating anyway. And the pathologizing sexism toward a major female character is intended to be sym A very satisfying and very dated novel. Perhaps satisfying because so dated. Makes it clear that for particular constituencies their alliances and differences keep shifting in subtle ways that matter, even if overall rather similar. In this case the attitude toward homosexuality by the protagonist is left at the end in some disarray, and without a final judgement. It's not "liberatory" but quite fascinating anyway. And the pathologizing sexism toward a major female character is intended to be sympathetic and sexually affirming, even though it is nothing of the sort.... Nothing like the play of historical specificities to make one wonder about one's own assumptions in good ways I think. Hard to be too complacent about one's own dogmas on sexuality, parenting, spiritual goodness, after reading this: both its intended message but also strangely it's own failure, specificity, and weirdness. And that is what makes it so satisfying: that and few places that allow for a good cry.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Miller

    I had previously read West's "The Shoes of the Fisherman" which was excellent. I like this novel even more. The story of a priest who has spent his career working for the Vatican is assigned to investigate the cause of a man already declared Venerable. He is at the point of life where he feels his priesthood has been wasted and his daily life never challenged by difficulties. A significant factor makes this a turning point in his life and this assignment is partly the result. The cause he is assig I had previously read West's "The Shoes of the Fisherman" which was excellent. I like this novel even more. The story of a priest who has spent his career working for the Vatican is assigned to investigate the cause of a man already declared Venerable. He is at the point of life where he feels his priesthood has been wasted and his daily life never challenged by difficulties. A significant factor makes this a turning point in his life and this assignment is partly the result. The cause he is assigned seems problematic on many levels regarding a man with an unknown background and what is known is problematic. Added to this is political problems since he was killed by the Communists in Italy. I pretty much loved everything about this novel. The cast of characters, the nuances of the situation, and how the priest is struggling to resolve this situation.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patricia M.

    This is my new favorite book. It has amazing characterization. The story is excellent. The process of becoming a saint in this time of the great author, Morris West, is what we all know best. It is the Devil's Advocate versus the potential saint. This is really high drama. Throw in the Second World War in Italy as the back drop, and it is a perfect storm. It keeps turning corners in unexpected ways and keeps you dangling. It challenges faith and lack of it, smells and bells, and the disheartened This is my new favorite book. It has amazing characterization. The story is excellent. The process of becoming a saint in this time of the great author, Morris West, is what we all know best. It is the Devil's Advocate versus the potential saint. This is really high drama. Throw in the Second World War in Italy as the back drop, and it is a perfect storm. It keeps turning corners in unexpected ways and keeps you dangling. It challenges faith and lack of it, smells and bells, and the disheartened, all at one time. A truly great book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    jsewellmcevoy

    Very dated novel with West's Catholic sensibilities to the fore; in this instance a Vatican official investigating a case for sainthood discovers the prospective saint had fathered a male child by a local woman. Said child is now under threat by the village's resident homosexual - an English artist named "Nicholas Black" ie, the devil himself. The vatican official takes it upon himself to save the boy from a fate worse than death, surely. 'Nuff said. Some good dialogue and characterisation in th Very dated novel with West's Catholic sensibilities to the fore; in this instance a Vatican official investigating a case for sainthood discovers the prospective saint had fathered a male child by a local woman. Said child is now under threat by the village's resident homosexual - an English artist named "Nicholas Black" ie, the devil himself. The vatican official takes it upon himself to save the boy from a fate worse than death, surely. 'Nuff said. Some good dialogue and characterisation in the early parts can't save this one.

  13. 4 out of 5

    João Esteves

    Really enjoyed the plot. The metamorphosis that Blaise Meredith went through from the beginning all the way to the end was really fascinating. Morris West explores a post-WW1 life of a bishop and inside the church and the process one must go through to be considered a saint. Also liked the flashback scenes, where we learn the life of Giacomo Nerone from the people that interacted with him. The books explores a lot of religious aspects as well. Overall very good book, main characters very well de Really enjoyed the plot. The metamorphosis that Blaise Meredith went through from the beginning all the way to the end was really fascinating. Morris West explores a post-WW1 life of a bishop and inside the church and the process one must go through to be considered a saint. Also liked the flashback scenes, where we learn the life of Giacomo Nerone from the people that interacted with him. The books explores a lot of religious aspects as well. Overall very good book, main characters very well developed and West lets you make contact with every one of them.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sister Eden

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it to be a beautifully crafted exploration of the meaning of faith, mercy, holiness and human frailty. I had some trepidation about how the author would handle the sexuality of the artist Mr. Black, especially knowing that the novel was first published in the early 1950s. The frank "born this way" treatment of Mr. Black's homosexuality surprised me and struck me as a nuanced and highly progressive characterization for its era - especially for a book focuse I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it to be a beautifully crafted exploration of the meaning of faith, mercy, holiness and human frailty. I had some trepidation about how the author would handle the sexuality of the artist Mr. Black, especially knowing that the novel was first published in the early 1950s. The frank "born this way" treatment of Mr. Black's homosexuality surprised me and struck me as a nuanced and highly progressive characterization for its era - especially for a book focused so explicitly on matters of faith. The humanity of all principal characters unfolded so beautifully and tragically. Would definitely recommend it to others who enjoy books that center on spiritual themes with a strong humanist slant.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sherrill Watson

    "The Devil's Advocate" is a fact-finding person who seeks the truth in the first step toward beatification in the Roman Catholic Church. I think. Fr. Blaise Meridith is sent to a small town in Italy to interview people during WWII, about a man calling himself Giacomo Nerone. There is much politics in the Vatican, Father Meridith is very "good" but has been treated badly, or at least like a hermit, notwithstanding his immanent terminal illness, and the people he is to interview are suspicious. But "The Devil's Advocate" is a fact-finding person who seeks the truth in the first step toward beatification in the Roman Catholic Church. I think. Fr. Blaise Meridith is sent to a small town in Italy to interview people during WWII, about a man calling himself Giacomo Nerone. There is much politics in the Vatican, Father Meridith is very "good" but has been treated badly, or at least like a hermit, notwithstanding his immanent terminal illness, and the people he is to interview are suspicious. But he perseveres, kindly, thoroughly, gently, and grows, some, as a result. A very good read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ann Marie

    An old favorite that I first read 30 years ago. I remember having only a few pages left when my bus stop came up..and running into a stall in an empty bathroom at work to finish it in peace, as I was crying. Its attitudes are a bit dated now although I love the mid-century style. Part Leon Uris, part Graham Greene...historical fiction with a Catholic point of view. I was surprised to remember a line from the ending, word for word, 30 years later!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pilar Guerrero

    Fantastic

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Suffering from an incurable disease, Father Blaise Meredith is sent to a poor village in Italy to investigate the complicated life of a military deserter who the townspeople are claiming was a saint. With clear, vivid writing, the novel tells the stories of several well-drawn characters who are all wrestling with their faith and mortality, compelling readers to examine their own beliefs and burdens on the soul.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Romina

    This story has a lot of Christian Catholic philosophy which helps to understand the motives of the characters and how oppressed they were by society and the Church at that time (middle of the 20th century). It’s interesting how the reader actually felt their despair and the lack of moral guidance, which is quite ironic considering Rome and the Vatican are only a couple of hundred of kilometers away. Recommended reading to those who try to understand the mindset of little ITALIAN towns during and This story has a lot of Christian Catholic philosophy which helps to understand the motives of the characters and how oppressed they were by society and the Church at that time (middle of the 20th century). It’s interesting how the reader actually felt their despair and the lack of moral guidance, which is quite ironic considering Rome and the Vatican are only a couple of hundred of kilometers away. Recommended reading to those who try to understand the mindset of little ITALIAN towns during and after WWII.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Melillo

    The Devil's Advocate is a brilliant study of varied themes, in vivid characters whose thoughts, motives, and histories are shown in striking fashion. With its being dated, and containing references that can be misconstrued, some of its depth can be lost today. The main character, Blaise Meredith, is totally cerebral, and, having spent his life in reviewing cases for beatification, essentially incapable of understanding human nature and circumstances - sin and virtue are his concerns, and they ha The Devil's Advocate is a brilliant study of varied themes, in vivid characters whose thoughts, motives, and histories are shown in striking fashion. With its being dated, and containing references that can be misconstrued, some of its depth can be lost today. The main character, Blaise Meredith, is totally cerebral, and, having spent his life in reviewing cases for beatification, essentially incapable of understanding human nature and circumstances - sin and virtue are his concerns, and they have been reduced to intellectual abstractions. The Contessa, who could be seen as only a woman who liked varied lovers today, is embittered in that Giacomo rejected her and preferred a peasant woman. She seeks revenge on a dead man and his common-law wife. The treatment of Nicholas Black, on which many have commented, is far more intricate than just an illustration of prevalent 1950s attitudes about homosexuality. The contessa's plan, which we see in her thoughts, not in dialogue with others, is to assist Nicholas in seducing Giacomo's son, Paolo, then have Nicholas up on charges, then have Paolo's mother classed as unfit - so Paolo can become her ward and, ultimately, her lover. Giacomo would be an unlikely candidate for canonisation. His writings show a turning to faith, and elements of virtue, but he died very shortly afterwards. Unusual fervour in one who comes to conversion in his middle years would not be strange, and generally would be classed as heroic virtue only if it were sustained. Yet Giacomo has had an impressive influence on many - even those who conspired to execute him. The plot is far less about holiness than about the intricate depths of human nature. It is an intriguing book, showing a large scope of convictions, wisdom, struggles, confusion, commitment, and what a large gap there can be between intellectual views, such as are all Blaise has known, and pastoral acuity. It equally is a fascinating picture of politics (Church and secular), frustrated ideals (as in the character of the selfless doctor), and the complexity of good and evil.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jann Cather

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I first read this book as a youth of 13. At that time, I found the writing of Morris West engaging, and the story of the Devil’s Advocate in the Beatification process intriguing (I was Presbyterian). Five decades later, I find this book theologically flawed and tragically anti-LGBTQ+. Now, as a theologically trained ordained minister in the United Church of Christ for almost 40 years, I see the wide gap between the natural theology of the Roman Catholic Church and the progressive theology in man I first read this book as a youth of 13. At that time, I found the writing of Morris West engaging, and the story of the Devil’s Advocate in the Beatification process intriguing (I was Presbyterian). Five decades later, I find this book theologically flawed and tragically anti-LGBTQ+. Now, as a theologically trained ordained minister in the United Church of Christ for almost 40 years, I see the wide gap between the natural theology of the Roman Catholic Church and the progressive theology in many Protestant denominations. My fear is that this book will be read by a youth or young-adult ‘struggling’ with accepting their sexuality. According to this book, if you are LGBTQ+, you are “maimed and incomplete,” and one of the “freaks and whims of a sardonic Creator.” Doomed to be forever rejected by church and family, it is better to kill yourself, which is the culmination of this pathetic novel.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emily Webb

    This has had such an effect on me. Might be because I grew up Catholic but also because it details the often torturous internal conflict people experience when they question the meaning of their lives and relationships and ultimately love. Morris West’s writing is so dense and enjoyable and I found myself going back and re-reading passages over and over again. Honestly this is one of the best books I’ve read for a long time. It was a bestseller when it came out around 60 years ago and I think it This has had such an effect on me. Might be because I grew up Catholic but also because it details the often torturous internal conflict people experience when they question the meaning of their lives and relationships and ultimately love. Morris West’s writing is so dense and enjoyable and I found myself going back and re-reading passages over and over again. Honestly this is one of the best books I’ve read for a long time. It was a bestseller when it came out around 60 years ago and I think it was still very accessible with its themes for today’s reader. I am somewhat intrigued by the workings of the Catholic Church (The Vatican) and the process of beatification of people as saints and West’s writing on power and faith is timeless.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ellen

    Although some aspects of this mid-20th century novel are dated, particularly the portrayals of the gay painter Nicholas Black and sexually frustrated, neurotic chatelaine Anne de Sanctis, in the end i gave it four stars. The central question on which the plot turns - was Giacomo Nerone a saint? - is overshadowed by the story of Fr. Blaise Meredith, the eponymous Vatican official who discovers something of his own humanity as he investigates Nerone and comes to terms with his own swiftly passing m Although some aspects of this mid-20th century novel are dated, particularly the portrayals of the gay painter Nicholas Black and sexually frustrated, neurotic chatelaine Anne de Sanctis, in the end i gave it four stars. The central question on which the plot turns - was Giacomo Nerone a saint? - is overshadowed by the story of Fr. Blaise Meredith, the eponymous Vatican official who discovers something of his own humanity as he investigates Nerone and comes to terms with his own swiftly passing mortality. In the end, the compelling nature of Meredith's struggles more than compensated for the almost campy de Sanctis/Black story lines.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Szatkowski

    This book is written by the same author as "Shoes of the Fisherman." It takes place in a world that is no more, southern Italy of the 1950s, as World War II's horrors are being dealt with, Vatican II has not yet happened, and people are realizing that the pre-world war way of living is gone forever. Against this back drop comes a dying priest, sent to investigate the possibility of a saint in a small village. With him, the reader will find people in their simplicity and goodness, foolishness and This book is written by the same author as "Shoes of the Fisherman." It takes place in a world that is no more, southern Italy of the 1950s, as World War II's horrors are being dealt with, Vatican II has not yet happened, and people are realizing that the pre-world war way of living is gone forever. Against this back drop comes a dying priest, sent to investigate the possibility of a saint in a small village. With him, the reader will find people in their simplicity and goodness, foolishness and wisdom. Truly a wonderful, fun read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Livvy

    This book blew the world of reading open for me. Not sure why. Just the right book at the right time.The strong Catholic background was quite alien to me (a Non-conformist), but Morris West weaves it in in such a way, as he does in all his books, that it is not a religious "add on", but an essential core to the understanding of setting, plot and character. I have collected, but still not read, most of his books. An Australian, he died in 1999, aged 83. This book blew the world of reading open for me. Not sure why. Just the right book at the right time.The strong Catholic background was quite alien to me (a Non-conformist), but Morris West weaves it in in such a way, as he does in all his books, that it is not a religious "add on", but an essential core to the understanding of setting, plot and character. I have collected, but still not read, most of his books. An Australian, he died in 1999, aged 83.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Deals with the idea of what constitutes a sinner or a saint in a fairly good way. Also delves into the whole idea of faith vs communism; can a social system made by man be perfect? (West emphatically answers no). The story of the loss of faith and then its rediscovery within a Roman Catholic framework.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    i guess you kind of have to be a (practicing) cathloic for this to be worthwhile. i find the existence of people like blaise meredith, clergymen who are not priests, but rather theological middle-management, kind of ridiculous. i'm sure nicholas black must have been a shocking character back in the day, but now he seems like the gay-people equivalent of "reefer madness". i guess you kind of have to be a (practicing) cathloic for this to be worthwhile. i find the existence of people like blaise meredith, clergymen who are not priests, but rather theological middle-management, kind of ridiculous. i'm sure nicholas black must have been a shocking character back in the day, but now he seems like the gay-people equivalent of "reefer madness".

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bookman8

    This offering is from the author of "Shoes of the Fisherman." This was a bit disappointing. A 1950's book that seems stuck in its age. About the initial investigations into a possible saint. The philosophy and theology were thought provoking, but did not flow well within the story; it seeme forced to fit. This offering is from the author of "Shoes of the Fisherman." This was a bit disappointing. A 1950's book that seems stuck in its age. About the initial investigations into a possible saint. The philosophy and theology were thought provoking, but did not flow well within the story; it seeme forced to fit.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Old fashioned story telling at its best. I thought it was well ahead of it's time in theme as it was published when we were not questioning the lasting residual effects of war. A very good insight to war and it's aftermath for a civilians who are just trying to stay alive when survival is questionable. The faith issues the book address give pause. Old fashioned story telling at its best. I thought it was well ahead of it's time in theme as it was published when we were not questioning the lasting residual effects of war. A very good insight to war and it's aftermath for a civilians who are just trying to stay alive when survival is questionable. The faith issues the book address give pause.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Vaishakh Namboothiri

    To begin with i need to say this "THE ONLY VATICAN RELATED FICTION I REED BEFORE WAS DAN BROWN'S ANGELS & DEMONS" even though devils advocate predates the former, but to say this book was a good one you know just another book with actually something to say........ nothing more from me its good alright but these days just good wont do. right?????? To begin with i need to say this "THE ONLY VATICAN RELATED FICTION I REED BEFORE WAS DAN BROWN'S ANGELS & DEMONS" even though devils advocate predates the former, but to say this book was a good one you know just another book with actually something to say........ nothing more from me its good alright but these days just good wont do. right??????

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