Title: Future Popes of Ireland
Author: Darragh Martin
Pages: 448 pages
Publisher: Fourth Estate
In 1979 Bridget Doyle has one goal left in life: for her family to produce the very first Irish pope. Fired up by John Paul II’s appearance in Phoenix Park, she sprinkles Papal-blessed holy water on the marital bed of her son and daughter-in-law, and leaves them to get on with things. But nine months later her daughter-in-law dies in childbirth and Granny Doyle is left bringing up four grandchildren: five-year-old Peg, and baby triplets Damien, Rosie and John Paul.
Thirty years later, it seems unlikely any of Granny Doyle’s grandchildren are going to fulfil her hopes. Damien is trying to work up the courage to tell her that he’s gay. Rosie is a dreamy blue-haired rebel who wants to save the planet and has little time for popes. And irrepressible John Paul is a chancer and a charmer and the undisputed apple of his Granny’s eye – but he’s not exactly what you’d call Pontiff material.
None of the triplets have much contact with their big sister Peg, who lives over 3,000 miles away in New York City, and has been a forbidden topic of conversation ever since she ran away from home as a teenager. But that’s about to change.
I don’t really know what I was expecting when I picked up The Future Popes of Ireland by Darragh Martin. I knew it would have something to do with Ireland – that was a given and I knew it was going to be a family drama but how it was going to play out I was at a bit of a loss with. I think I wanted a book version of Derry Girls meets Mrs Brown. Sadly, I don’t feel I got that.
This is not a critique on the writing of Darragh Martin. I want to make that very clear. He has obviously invested a lot of time into writing and researching his book. For me, it just felt very disjointed. The way the timescale lashed forwards and backwards and the extremely short chapters or segments of chapters left me feeling dizzy and constantly trying to play catch up over which character I was reading about. It was due to this that I didn’t feel like I could connect with any of the Doyle family.
This is something that I don’t particularly like in any book but I think it is brave when a writer uses that choice of style.
Future Popes of Ireland by Darragh Martin is available now.