The Pope's Rhinoceros, Paperback Book
2.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


In February 1516, a Portugese ship sank with the loss of all hands a mile off the coast of Italy.

The Nostra Senora da Adjuda had sailed 14000 miles from the Indian kingdom Gujarat: her mission, to deliver a rhinoceros to the Pope.

The Pope's Rhinoceros tells the stories which culminate in this bizarre incident.

Ranging from the Baltic Sea to a flyblown colony in India, from a tribe hidden in the African rain forest to atrocities committed in an obscure town in Tuscany, Norfolk's brilliant novel holds up the true history of the rhinoceros as a mirror to the fantasies and obsessions of the Renaissance.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical fiction
  • ISBN: 9780749398743

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

I give up. This novel has been a trusty paperweight and book-end for a few years now. The bookmark has moved forward a few pages at irregular intervals. Usually, each dip into the text puts me off reading for a while. I get the impression that the author consulted a thesaurus twice for every sentence on every one of the 753 pages. Perhaps literary reviewers enjoy this sort of book, as it gives them the chance to demonstrate how clever they are. But it's not for me. Enough is enough. There are other things to do in life.

Review by

A unique book that defies categorisation, this is a huge, surreal, complex, all-encompassing sixteenth century picaresque shaggy dog (or should I say rhinoceros) story full of humour, complex plot twists, period detail and arcane vocabulary, ranging from the Baltic coastal island of Usedom via Rome to West Africa and back, taking in large chunks of history, geography, geology, papal politics and many other subjects. <br/><br/>Not an easy read, particularly the opening which spends several pages explaining the geological evolution of the Baltic in almost wilfully obscure language, but ultimately a rewarding one, and an impressive feat of research and imagination.