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Pope Francis: Untying the Knots

2013 August 1
by Paul Vallely

Paul Vallely’s biography of the new Pope Pope Francis: Untying the Knots

has just been published by Bloomsbury at £12.99

Buy it here



Peter Stanford in The Sunday Times says:

“Paul Vallely’s biography of Francis…stands, in terms of seriousness of purpose and depth of understanding, head and shoulders above other recent rushed cuttings jobs” 

Read Peter Stanford’s review in here: Sunday Times review of Untying the Knots


Mark Lawson in The Guardian:

“Vallely gives riveting accounts of the “conclaves” in which first, in 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger was named Benedict XVI to follow John Paul II and then, in 2012, the first pope from the Americas was selected to succeed Benedict.”

“tough-minded analysis… lifts the book well above the nervous reverence of much papal biography, and should recommend it to an audience broader than Catholics”

“reads like a lost, unexpectedly literate chapter of The Da Vinci Code”

“it’s hard to imagine the rapid papal biography being done better”

read Mark Lawson’s review in The Guardian here


Michael Walsh in The Tablet:

“thoroughly convincing”  

“Read this book, forget the rest”

read Michael Walsh’s review in The Tablet here


Raymond A Schroth SJ, in the US Jesuit magazine America:

“At last a book has put both Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, and Pope Francis in context, and explained the mystery of this man who seems to have come from nowhere to lead the Catholic Church at a critical time.”

“an honest portrait”

“Vallely meticulously assesses his subject”

read Raymond A Schroth’s review in America here


Luke Coppen in The Independent:

“Vallely skilfully unravels the competing narrative threads, without ever oversimplifying either Argentine politics or the new Pontiff’s complex personality”

“for such a sophisticated biography to appear now, less than six months after the papal election, is little short of a publishing miracle”

read Luke Coppen’s review in The Independent here


John Wilkins in the Church Times:

“in a different class from other instant biographies”

“a compelling account”

 read John Wilkins review here: Church Times review of Pope Francis – Untying the Knots


Untying the Knots reviewed in The Economist:

“This book demonstrates that Pope Francis is a tougher, more complex figure than meets the eye. A turbulent life has given the pontiff a subtle sense of the realities of power, and the courage to act on it. Anybody who reads this book will eagerly await his next move.”

read The Economist review here


Tim Byron SJ reviews Untying the Knots in Thinking Faith – the online journal of the British Jesuits:

‘Untying the Knots’ – is a stroke of genius. It expresses succinctly but also with a certain profundity the challenge at hand.

“great insight”

“a contemporary biography with the cadences of a film script”

Vallely is an excellent, well-connected writer, and Pope Francis: Untying the Knots is an engaging and thoughtful read throughout. He turns out to be a good ‘untier’ of the knots

read Tim Byron’s review here


Tom Heneghan, religion editor, Reuters, writes:

“Paul Vallely’s Untying the Knots fills the gaps left by ‘instant books’ on Pope Francis”

Read Tom Heneghan here


John Cornwell in the Times Literary Supplement

“Vallely’s book is a formidable achievement”

Read John Cornwell’s TLS review here



listen to Sean O’Rourke’s interview with Paul Vallely on Today on RTE here


listen to Paul Vallely interviewed by William Crawley on The Sunday Programme on BBC Radio 4 here: Paul Vallely Interview on the Sunday programme


listen to Paul Vallely interviewed  on  Sunday Sequence on BBC Radio Ulster on BBC Radio here: Paul Vallely interview 4th August 2013


Watch Paul Vallely talking about the book on BBC TV here: BBC_World_News_2013-08-05_12-46-05









Buy Pope Francis – Untying the Knots  here

3 Responses
  1. michael c. fewell permalink
    August 27, 2013

    I found “Untying the Knot” extremely enlightening. It filled me with optimism about the new Pope and the hard life experiences he is bringing to the papacy.

    I suppose the only people who came through the “Dirty War” in Argentina not besmirched by it are the ‘desparacidos’, God help them.

    Hopefully, the new Bishop of Rome will implement the lessons he learned from that time and soon apply them to the “murky war” that has been going on in the Vatican.

  2. Michael P Wilson permalink
    August 30, 2013

    I have read Untying the Knots and am both impressed and very grateful. However, I noticed the following: (1) on p47 you refer to ‘Miguel Mom Debussy.’ On p51 he becomes ‘Miguel Dom Debussy.’ The confusion recurs, but I failed to note the pages. (2)p198 you have ‘eased’ for ‘ceased.’ (3) p199 ‘that HE wants to issue… ‘ (word missing.) (4) More seriously – p209 The Regensburg lecture was 2006 not 1986.

    Small quibbles about a superb piece of work completed in an amazingly short period of time. Many thanks. Mike Wilson

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