No Popes to see here…
- Book: Future Popes of Ireland
- Location: Ireland
- Author: Darragh Martin
This is an ambitious debut adult novel from author Darragh Martin, introducing us to an entertaining Irish family, full of ‘craic’, faith, love, bitterness and confusion as they live through a country and time of rapid change.
The Doyles are at the heart of this sprawling story, moving from Baptism (Series I – 1979) to Last Rites (Series X – 2011).
Granny Doyle is the rosary bead-wringing matriarch, a traditionalist demanding total adherence to the Catholic faith and all its rituals. And all she wants to see now is the first Irish Pope, devising a not-so-cunning plan to ensure that the potential Pontiff is a Doyle.
Capturing holy water from the real Pope John Paul II, she facilitates a night of passion between her feckless, gambling son Danny and daughter-in-law Catherine, whilst keeping young grand-daughter Peg out of the way, at home in 7 Dunluce Crescent, Dublin.
‘Glass was the great friend of gossip and the porch served as the de facto community for the other old biddies on the street. They had all moved into the crescent within a few years of each other in the late Fifties and here they were, families raised and husbands buries, their lives moving in synch, morning Masses in Killester Church and the excitement of Saturday’s Late Late Show and Sunday roasts shared with disappointing children and glowing grandchildren, and every event unpicked in Granny Doyle’s porch, which contained a folding chair for each of the auld ones on Dublin’s own Widows’ Way.’
Triplets arrive, but Catherine goes. And Danny.
Over the ensuing 30 years, Granny Doyle’s hopes and influence falter, in the face of quickening change amongst the family that mirrors what is happening in the wider world.
Peg commits a cardinal sin, and ends up in exile in New York City, living a Doyle-free life on her own terms.
Rosie is the dreamer, a henna-dyed rebel who wants to save the planet and get to know her distant sister.
Damien meanders into politics and becomes a member of the Green Party. He’s gay, but scared as hell to tell his controlling, devout grandmother.
And then there’s John Paul, Granny Doyle’s favourite but really just a charming chancer, a self-styled Pope John-Paul III but as far from being Pope material as Jack Charlton was from being Irish.
I loved the way the novel started. The main characters are richly drawn, painting a vivid picture of an Ireland on the cusp of dynamic social, religious and economic transformations. Thereafter, I felt the story jumped between timelines and characters a little too much, but by the time I had turned the last page, I knew I was going to miss living with the Doyles every day. Even Granny Doyle.