The #TFBookClub reads ‘Future Popes of Ireland’ set in IRELAND

9th May 2019

Thank you for joining us as we read Future Popes of Ireland by Darragh Martin, set in IRELAND (May/June 2019).

Future Popes of Ireland

We hope you enjoy reading this whimsical pilgrimage to the Emerald Isle, a big-hearted, funny and sad novel about the messiness of love, family and belief.

We will be chatting about the book throughout May and June 2019, so if you are reading it with us, please come and join the dialogue!

The #TFBookClub is your book club – we are here to help you discover new titles that will transport you to interesting locations via top literature for some exceptional #literarywanderlust.

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  1. User: Lesley Morton-Evans

    Posted on: 20/06/2019 at 10:53 am

    Had it not been for Trip Fiction I might not have come across Future Popes of Ireland. Thank you for my copy.
    Having worked in a Catholic school, I recognised the character traits and most noticeably the fabulous humour.
    I didn’t enjoy the writing style. I don’t think it flowed, going back & forth with oddly placed short chapters. At times the story became confusing, perhaps the author himself was a little confused ? However,
    I enjoyed the attention to detail and the strong social history element and it certainly reminded me of a good chapter in my life.


  2. User: Claire Broomsgrove

    Posted on: 08/06/2019 at 7:17 pm

    Thank you Trip Fiction, for allowing me the opportunity to read Future Popes of Ireland, by Darragh Martin, not a book I would have chosen myself. I found it to be a poignant story of an Irish household, full of aspirations, constrained by their religious beliefs. It had many humours parts, I particularly enjoyed the strong dominant character of Granny Doyle. The style of the book was a little confusing with the choppy chapters.


  3. User: LisaRowsell

    Posted on: 05/06/2019 at 3:47 pm

    I’ve just started reading it, and whilst I’m enjoying getting to know the characters I’m already getting a little confused with the timeline jumping about so much. I’m hoping that as I get further into the book things will become much clearer.


  4. User: Claire HARRIS

    Posted on: 02/06/2019 at 10:36 pm

    I just started Future Popes of Ireland last night & am enjoying the humour, but already a little confused by the jumping about of the timeline!
    Some of the short chapters are coming in useful when I should be doing something other than reading & in my usual way, tell myself “Just one more chapter”
    More to come anon!


  5. User: Sara Hill

    Posted on: 28/05/2019 at 3:00 pm

    I did enjoy this book but not as much as most of the others you have sent me, I too got confused with all the different timelines and had to keep referring back.
    The book tackles religion, abortion, contraception and gay rights. Cantankerous Granny Doyle is left to care for her triplet grandchildren after the death of their mother in childbirth and the early death of their father and the 5 year old big sister Peg.
    The story tells of the way The older sister, Peg becomes pregnant as a teenager and is thrown out by Granny Doyle and emigrates to America.
    John Paul is always Granny Doyle’s favourite and is the apple of her eye. she sees him as the future Pope of Ireland and attributes a number of unofficial miracles to him. He grows up to be a shady property developer and a Utube star
    Damian is homosexual but never dares to come out to Granny Doyle although he does live openly with his male partner in adulthood.
    Rosie becomes an activist and resents the lack of attention paid to her by Granny Doyle.
    I think I might try and read this again in the hope that it will all become clearer!


  6. User: Val Hall

    Posted on: 23/05/2019 at 5:37 am

    Bittersweet family saga & social/political history of the last thirty years in Ireland. Very hit & miss.

    Future Popes of Ireland is a bittersweet saga of a dysfunctional Irish family wrapped up with a political and social history of the last thirty years in Ireland. Opening with triumphant promise and the visit of Pope John Paul II to Phoenix Park in 1979 the story follows the four Doyle siblings throughout their chaotic Catholic upbringing with a devout grandmother and through individual and very different paths in life. Chronicling the changes in Ireland’s economic and political climate along with providing an engaging social commentary, the effort to reunite and reconcile a family that has fractured over the decades throughout the course of the novel chimes with the move to a more progressive shift in Irish attitudes that the more recent years reflect.

    The story begins with indomitable matriarch and mother of Danny Doyle dragging her four-year-old granddaughter, Peg, to see Pope John Paul II’s arrival in Ireland and returning home with an instruction to her daughter-in-law to sprinkle some Papal-blessed holy water on the marital bed. For Bridget Doyle has a grand plan in mind and is determined that she will be the grandparent of the very first Irish Pope above any of her gossipy neighbours on Dunluce Crescent. But nine months later when Catherine dies in childbirth and Danny gives up on life, Granny Doyle is left bringing up newly arrived triplets (Damien, Rosie and favourite, John Paul) along with a neglected Peg who might as well be invisible for all the attention she gets. The story follows the broods turbulent relationship with Granny Doyle and the irrevocable split from not only their abrasive and stubborn Granny, but each other. Three decades later with Granny Doyle estranged from Peg now resident in New York, and an awkward memory for the triplets; gay Damien, dreamy eco-warrior Rosie and feckless lovable John Paul, their time to move beyond the unspoken Doyle history and confront the present is fast running out.

    From Peg being thrown out on Dunluce Crescent as a pregnant teen and fleeing to London befoe New York, blue-haired radical Rosie turning her back on their home, Declan living in the closet and campaigning for the Green Party and John Paul doing his own line in Pope themed YouTube videos, none of the Doyle offspring are quite living up to their Granny’s exacting standards or about to enter the Vatican… But can one final push bring the Doyle clan back together and move past the years of hurt?

    After getting off to a punchy and wryly amusing start and seeming like a big-hearted and absorbing story of family dynamics I was disappointed with how the story tailed off and lost its momentum making for a uneven read and a far more politically and religiously detailed one than I had expected. Interestingly the part of the novel I enjoyed the most was the social history which reprises Ireland’s 1990 World Cup run, the craze of Riverdance, the advent of the Walkman, Furby mania and Nokia 3310 mobile phone revolution! Many of these moments are equally applicable whether of Irish or not, and the liberal sprinkling of humour (even if many of the jokes are about the outdated Catholic rites and traditions) I enjoyed the walk down memory lane aspect.

    Whilst the characters were larger than life I felt there was little depth to them and Darragh Martin never really explored or scratched the surface of what made them tick. Together with a narrative that zig-zags back and forth between timelines, jumps between characters and assumes the reader has an familiarity and awareness of Catholicism and Irish politics I found the story became rather confusing and difficult to follow. Although further into the story the novel does give an extended focus on each character and settled down these sections were heavy going, especially in the case of Damien and the political focus. The character of John Paul seems to pinball from suicidal to ecstatic in the blink of an eye and veer from one extreme to another and I was disappointed that Martin also failed to broach his mental health turmoils yet explored gay fights and abortion in such depth.

    The book will undoubtedly resonate more for those who have Irish and Catholic sympathies and as I am neither, I found the novel somewhat difficult to engage with. I came away from this novel feeling that perhaps author, Darragh Martin, aimed to do far too much and would perhaps have been more successful if he had focused on his characters and less on simply fitting them into their required roles within Ireland’s chronology.


  7. User: Harriet Steel

    Posted on: 22/05/2019 at 6:06 am

    I loved the opening few chapters about the visit of the Pope to Ireland. The excitement it caused really came off the page. The foreshadowing of the Doyle family’s tragedy was skilfully done too. There were plenty of good characters and I was looking forward to following their stories, but I’m afraid that as the book went on, I was irritated by all the hopping between characters and times, as well as the frequent short chapters. There were funny and perceptive scenes like the disastrous performance of Peg’s play, The Swans of Lir, or the party with the burnt fish finger sandwiches, but too often, I felt I was being told a very long, rambling story by a man in a pub over several pints of Guinness. I studied James Joyce’s Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man for A level way back when, and to me, there were echoes of it here – the same discursive style of writing and the way mythological references weave into the story. I’m glad to have been introduced to this author and many thanks to the publishers for providing the copy.


  8. User: Janine Phillips

    Posted on: 21/05/2019 at 7:46 pm

    Well, I have to say that coming from an Irish/Scottish family I could relate to the characters. The various conflicts were well written and of the time. All in all I enjoyed this book but would agree that the short chapters were irritating


  9. User: Jane Willis

    Posted on: 20/05/2019 at 9:37 am

    Just finished reading this and I thought it was…. strange. Left me with very mixed feelings. I thought all the characters were good, but the storyline was rather thin and the way it was told was very confusing. There were too many viewpoint characters for me, and the way the timeline veered backwards and forwards left me dizzy. Some of the very short chapters seemed unnecessary too, there wasn’t enough in them to move the story forwards. The chapter titles, too, were puzzling, they seemed to be random words grabbed from the text.
    As for sense of place, the Irish parts of the story were brilliant at conjuring up Dublin (especially Dunluce place) and Clougheally, but the part set in New York could really have been anywhere in the world.
    Overall, I quite enjoyed reading it but was still waiting for something to happen when the book finished.


    1 Comment

    • User: andrewmorris51

      Posted on: 20/05/2019 at 10:22 am

      Hi Jane
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on ‘Future Popes of Ireland’.
      I can understand completely how you found the structure a little confusing at times. Glad that you loved the ‘Irishness’ of the story though. The author really brought parts of Dublin to life for the reader, didn’t he!
      TF’s Andrew


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