The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope
by Austen Ivereigh
(Henry Holt and Co., 2014, 445 pages)
I’ve been intrigued by Pope Francis since he was elected in 2013. Naturally, I had to read this book when it appeared on our New Book shelf. Author Austen Ivereigh is a historian and a religion scholar. He did a great job on giving the reader a detailed and fascinating account of the Pope’s life. Pope Francis (Jorge Bergoglio) was born to Italian immigrants in 1936 in Argentina. He studied at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina as a chemical engineering major before turning to philosophy and theology. I enjoyed learning about the environment he grow up in as a child. It’s interesting to read about the family and friends around him and events that happened during his youth. Helpful background information was also abundant on Pope Francis’ priesthood and the path that led him to be elected to the pope.
Though the book is heavy on history it’s not dull at all. Ivereigh’s engaging writing style and the interesting stories helped to make the content captivating. I’m glad Ivereigh spent a great deal of time explaining the history, politics, church and state in Argentina and South America. It took me a long time to finish it; that’s because I didn’t know anything about any of those topics. The book helped me to get a sense of who the Pope is, where he’s from, and what kind of pope he is today. Kudos to the author’s painstaking research and superior knowledge on the subject.