This is a timely biography which analyses the course of 20th century Italian history in order to describe the subject and his career. Actively religious and politically active, Pope Paul's family during the early years provided him as a young priest with the insights and the connections the Vatican was quick to utilize in assigning him to politically sensitive chores. As antifascist as he was anti-communist, Pope Paul earned a reputation as a successful controversalist with inner serenity during his Vatican years. Before leaving to become Archbishop of Milan, he had his conflicts with the more conservative Pope Pius XII and earned some virulent enemies as well as some powerful friends within the Curia. Anecdotes from friends and colleagues are used to good effect in this straightforward chronology of the years leading to the Papacy. It is a surprise to have the book end with a very complete report of the Pope's Palestinian visit when so little attention is afforded his widely criticized and/or praised role in the Second Session of the Second Vatican Council. Biography, history and criticism which stops just short of current controversy.