The Pope's Rhinoceros

Lawrence Norfolk, Author Harmony $25 (0p) ISBN 978-0-517-59532-9
Set in the 16th century, Norfolk's epic second novel takes its premise from an actual event: an unsuccessful Portuguese attempt to bring a rhinoceros to Rome by ship, in order to curry political favor with Pope Leo X. But historical fact is no more than a springboard for Norfolk's extremely (perhaps excessively) elaborate and occasionally mythic fictional construction. At the novel's center is Salvestro, a somewhat reluctant soldier of fortune who becomes a steadfast companion to Bernardo, a dim-witted hulk with fearsome physical strength. After they have been used as pawns in a maze of machinations and deceptions within the Italian military, the pair escape back to Salvestro's Baltic home town; but soon afterward, they return to Italy as guides for a group of beleaguered monks. In Rome, Salvestro and Bernardo become mixed up in the attempt to procure the exotic rhinoceros, undertaking a perilous sea voyage that deposits them on an equally perilous African coast. While some may enjoy Norfolk's whirligig of deceptions and double crosses, less patient readers will find the narrative frustrating. Norfolk indulges a penchant for withholding information, and his vaguely delineated, staggeringly complex plot twists involve a huge cast of characters. As he proved in the intellectually heavyweight Lempriere's Dictionary, he's clearly a virtuoso stylist. But in the end, this novel, more a tour de force of technical mastery than a compelling narrative, impresses more than it entertains. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Show other formats
FORMATS
Paperback - 574 pages - 978-0-8050-5475-0
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.