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The Shoes of the Fisherman

(The Vatican Tetralogy #1)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,804 ratings  ·  158 reviews
The pope has died, and the corridors of the Vatican hum with intrigue as cardinals from all over the world gather to choose his successor. Suddenly, the election is concluded - with a surprise result. The new pope is the youngest cardinal of all - and a Russian. Shoes of the Fisherman slowly unravels the heartwarming and profound story of Kiril Lakota, a cardinal who reluc ...more
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published April 1st 1990 by St Martins Press (first published January 1963)
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It's in chapter six.
“You are not born to peace, my friend. This is the first thing you must accept. You will not come to it, perhaps, till the day you…more

It's in chapter six.
“You are not born to peace, my friend. This is the first thing you must accept. You will not come to it, perhaps, till the day you die. Each of us has his own cross, you know, made and fitted to his reluctant shoulders."(less)
Emma The new pope speeches for the cardinals and asks them to tell them the troubles of the church.

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Profound on many levels, this book is amazing. Although written in 1963, it predicts a Ukrainian Pope named Kiril Lakota who suffered much under the Communist system, envisions a worldwide, peace-making role for the papacy, anticipates traveling to Marian apparition sites, and is deeply spiritual. Does this remind you of anyone? Even the name Karol Wojtyla and the Eastern-block location are eerily close. I wonder what Morris West thought when Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyła) became pope? I wond ...more
Apr 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it is inspiring and well written and I am glad I read it. On the other hand it has not held up well. It is obvious that the author intended it to be inspiring as well as a serious novel about the papacy and the Church. However, it was published in 1963 while John XXIII was pope. The Church and the papacy it describes is much changed so that the internal agony of the main character as well as others is pretty irrelevant. I also have to ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it it was ok

Almost every year from 1940 to 1963, there has been at least one Christian novel on the Top 10 Bestseller list. The Shoes of the Fisherman took the #1 spot in 1963. It is the story of a Pope, how he was chosen, and what he faced in trying to keep the Catholic Church relevant in the postwar, communist influenced Cold War era. Kiril Lakota, Ukrainian Russian, victim of torture in the gulags, becomes Pope Kiril I.

According to the Author's Note in the front of the book, "This is a book set in a fict
Sep 29, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
Read and enjoyed this years ago (before the movie). Current readers may have a little trouble understanding why a Russian pope would have had such impact (prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and election of John Paul II).
Jim Vuksic
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it
"The Shoes of the Fisherman" had only been available for two years when my advanced literature class was obliged to read it in 1965. I was a senior, attending a Roman Catholic seminary, so it came as no great surprise that this book would be required reading.

Reluctantly, I started to read; fully expecting it to be a pious propaganda piece for the Catholic Church and quite boring as well. I was wrong on both counts.

This story of a young Russian Cardinal being elected Pope turned out to be inspira
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book for college English 50 years ago. I revisted it in anticipation of the upcoming conclave. Amazing how things haven't change to a great degree from when this was published. Still trying to get the church to connect with the common man and divorce itself from pomp and circumstance. Still a worthwhile read fifty years later. ...more
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
I never thought I would read a book like this but I’m glad I did. I am part of a minority group so I expected some bashing but it was actually gentle and kind. I sometimes have to remind myself that some people are just trying to be the best that they can be despite our differences.

Purely fictional but I liked the main Pope character. He sounds like a good guy. He had an interesting background and perspective.

The plot was probably the downfall. There just wasn’t enough happening and there was a
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book.

The combination of philosophical internal discussions from the highest seat in the Catholic church and the everyday worries of a middle-aged man set in the midst of the cold war was brilliant. When you think that this was written just a few years before the Cuban crisis, it shows a clear insight to the tension at the time. In light of the resent appointment of Pope Francis, it is particularly interesting to read about the Jesuits and the development of the role of the
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was fantastic!!
Tejas Nair
May 24, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tejas by: Matthew Uncle
Shelves: fiction
The Shoes of the Fisherman is the type of book that requires a little bit of knowledge in its base theme, which in here, is the Papacy and the influence of the Soviet Union before and during the Cold War. It is for that reason and my own limitations in the subject as well as that of fragmentation (where the multiple arcs of the story do not come together at the end) that I couldn't much enjoy Morris West's novel about a Ukrainian pastor taking the Chair of Peter and getting tangled in Vatican Po ...more
Debra  Wills
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: around-the-world
In the past, I have seen the movie adapted from this book but has never read it until now. It was insightful into the life of a pope and the challenges he faced. The book is set in the early 1960's so the time period is during the "Cold War" this is in the underlying story and a struggle for the pope in the book. ...more
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Reading it was a chore. Only did so because I had an 11 hour flight and no other book. How about a plot?
Juan Carlos
Sep 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
West is without a doubt a superb writer, however I found The Shoes of The Fisherman to be a great dissapointment. In spite of the fact that most of the reviews I have read higly praise the book, it never really got to me.

The concept seems quite interesting at first: an unknown russian, cardinal Kiril Lakota is elected pope. After being held prisioner for quite a few years, he steps up to lead millions of people around the globe in a new world which he basically has knowledge of only from his ye
Apr 06, 2010 rated it liked it
The book I just read was a paper back, published in May of 1964. There was a movie made of this story that I saw in the late 60's.

When I first started reading the book I fully expected it to track somewhat closely to the movie.

Not so.

The book story line begins with a new pope from behind the iron curtain. This brings with it some special challenges as you can imagine. The development of the new pope Lakota has to face the daunting job of being a pope during the height of the cold war. The story
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Moments of crisis - in spirit, in thought, in love, in action - populate this book and Morris West does not shirk from giving his characters hard things to think about, and hard things to do, as well as the hard consequences of their actions. Ostensibly this is about the first few months of a new pope, but his dealings with his torturer who is now Russian premier, a woman who is wandering aimlessly until she finds herself, a puppet politician controlled by his aunt and his love affairs with the ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, fiction
I enjoyed this old novel (it came out in 1963) about the Vatican and a new, young Pope from an Eastern block country who shakes things up in Rome. The author was an Australian, and in his novels he managed to predicted the Papacy of John Paul II fifteen years before it happened, as well as the retirement of Pope Benedict decades before it took place. It was interesting for me to read about the concerns of the Catholic Church on the eve of Vatican II (the novel actually came out on the day Pope J ...more
Liz Barlow
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting view into the inner workings of the Vatican. It's very reflective of the typical bureaucracy weighed down by people too old to move with the times and so have lost touch with their essential purpose. The book's a little dry and drawn out in spots with old school type writing but a good read nevertheless. ...more
Ed DeLoach
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent Cold War study from a different angle

A fictional study of life during the Cold War from a different point of view, the Catholic Church. Everybody has read fiction and non-fiction about the Cold War, but nobody has looked at a group committed to peace and given a view from that point of view. It’s an interesting read and well done.
John Yelverton
Jul 16, 2013 rated it liked it
The book stated off being really enjoyable, but the author bogged it down with flights of theological fancy and summed it up with a lackluster ending at best.
Timothy Olson
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, catholicism
"There are some, my friend, who wear the Church like a glove. Myself for instance, I am a man who was made to grow comfortably within an established order. I understand the organization. I know where it is rigid and where it can be made flexible.... There is no merit in this, no special virtue. It is at bottom a matter of temperament and aptitude. It has nothing to do with faith, hope, or charity...There are others, my friend, who wear the Church like a hair shirt. They believe no less. They lov ...more
The book is in many ways unusual, even prophetic. It's almost unbelievable that the author had such intuition about the history of the Church and papacy. And yet, the book was created in the 60's, 15 years before the election of Karol Wojtyła as the Pope.

Great reading, contrary to appearances, not only about the Pope. The novel shows the problems of the world at the time, the people of the Church and ordinary people living in it. Today we see the consequences of those times, and some problems a
Apr 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Shoes of the Fisherman is both a good read and an intersection of history and fiction. The book was published the day that Pope John XXIII died. The main character, Pope Kiril I, the successor to an unnamed pope that has just died, is based on two actual Ukrainian priests. The book is set in the environment of Pre-Vatican II which addressed many of the issues that the book tackles. It also takes place at the height of the Cold War. The book explores how the Roman Catholic Church should move ...more
Jeff Mayo
Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I was not at all familiar with this book and only read it because a book club was reading all New York Times Best Sellers from the 1960's. It is an interesting premise, a pope dies, the cardinals gather to choose a successor, and the youngest of them, a Russian, is chosen. The problem is, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War the idea of a cardinal stepping out from behind the iron curtain to lead Catholicism isn't as interesting. So while it is dated, and was somewha ...more
Carmen  María Pérez
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A powerful and challenging novel. This is the story of Cardinal Lakota as a new Pope. A new life after seventeen years suffering for the faith (arrested and tortured) in his native Russia. Pope Lakota is younger than customary. Each chapter ends with the new Pope’s personal diary. His history is surrounded by politics, inertia, bureaucracy, traditions, criticism, and the death of a friend (Father Jean Télémond). Even with the daily challenges that Lakota faced, he spoke of faith and hope. The no ...more
Lorraine Shelstad
May 11, 2020 rated it liked it
I wanted to read this book as it was about the fictional election of a Pope from a Communist country (Russia) before the actual election of Karol Wojtyla from Poland. Other than the pope being from a Communist country there was little in common with real life. I was disappointed in the ending - I guess there was another book written after that which made it seem as if the story was not completed. However, there were many interesting points in it - the fictional Pope wanted to travel to other cou ...more
Daniel Mallon
Having watched the film version I picked up the novel and perhaps was too much influenced by the film.
I would definitely read the book first given the chance. The film version with Anthony Quinn had much more tension involving the Russian and Chinese going to war.

I must say it is definitely a prophetic novel considering it was written years before Saint Pope John Paul II. There are many things that came to pass; Karol and Kiril being the most amazing link.

I've given it only two stars not because
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, clergy
A novel ahead of its time - the theme of a non-Italian Pope would not come to life (after centuries of Italian Popes) until 1978, 15 years after this novel. This enjoyable and highly readable novel was made into a blockbuster film in 1968, starring Anthony Quinn.

Vatican Trilogy Book I - A Russian - and the youngest cardinal of all - is elected as the new pope. This is the story of Kiril Lakota, a cardinal who reluctantly steps out from behind the Iron Curtain to lead the Catholic Church and to g
Stephen Sims
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Surprised by how much I really enjoyed this book. Not being Catholic I was not hoping for great things... it started slow and I wasn’t really hoping for much, but after the first part of the book was over I really got into it and found it quite thought provoking and profound, questioning the reader through the characters about our own nature and relationship with/to God and about who God is and who we are to each other. Really insightful and thoughtful writing.

First Morris West book I’ve read an
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: italy, fiction
2.5 stars

The story of a newly elected pope dealing with the problems of the Atomic Age, including nuclear armageddon and babies deformed by prescription drugs.

The reason I'm docking the book a couple of points is because of a secondary story. Something about some woman trying to get a divorce so she can marry an American. It was nothing but filler with no impact on the main story. Cut it out and you wouldn't even miss it. Why was it even put in there?
Amy Doeun
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a providential read for me. I got it at the library through their "blind date with a book" program for Valentine's Day. So I didn't know the book I picking, but I found it extraordinarily timely. I have been grappling with my spirituality for a long time and how God fits in my life. This book has many of the same contemplations. I wrote down many great quotes to help me on my spiritual journey. At the same time it was an enjoyable and quick read, though some sections dragged. ...more
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Morris Langlo West was born in St Kilda, Melbourne in 1916. At the age of fourteen, he entered the Christian Brothers seminary ‘as a kind of refuge’ from a difficult childhood. He attended the University of Melbourne and worked as a teacher. In 1941 he left the Christian Brothers without taking final vows. In World War II he worked as a code-breaker, and for a time he was private secretary to form ...more

Other books in the series

The Vatican Tetralogy (4 books)
  • The Clowns of God
  • Lazarus
  • Eminence

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