To Kingdom Come:
Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

  1. During the opening sequence in the prologue, our narrator is in the process of drowning, which we learn is because of an attempt on his life. How does this set the tone for the rest of To Kingdom Come? Do you believe that the narrator will ultimately survive?
  2. What do we learn about our narrator, Thomas Llewelyn, within the first few chapters? What else do we learn about Thomas as the narrative progresses? We never learn why he was imprisoned, why Cyrus Barker hired him, or why Thomas is not in touch with his family. How does that affect the way you feel about Thomas as a narrator of this story? Does it make you want to read more and find out the answers to the unanswered questions?
  3. Describe the relationship between Llewelyn and Barker. How is it similar to and/or different from Sherlock and Dr. Watson? Why isn't Barker more forthcoming with Thomas about what they are investigating? How does it affect the narrative power of the story to find out answers as Thomas does?
  4. As Barker is instructing Llewelyn on "internal exercises," bombs explode in Scotland Yard. The police determine that it is the Irish Republican Brotherhood behind the bombing. Barker and Llewelyn go undercover to infiltrate the I.R.B. to stop further destruction. Why does Barker want to be involved in this case? What are his motives? What are the main qualities Barker displays in his dealings with Scotland Yard? Is he any different in the way he interacts with the I.R.B.? What do we know about Barker from his relationship to his employees and business contacts?
  5. As Barker and Llewelyn infiltrate the I.R.B., we get a taste of the intensity of commitment that its members have to Irish independence. How does it compare to the feelings to today -- nearly 100 years after To Kingdom Come takes place -- that the Irish have toward England? Will Ireland ever have more than an uneasy truce with England? Why or why not? 6. The master bomb builder Johannes van Rhyn declares, "Like all makers of wholesale destruction, I am a pacifist. The bad thing about war is that it makes more evil people than it can take away." [p. 68] Do you agree with van Rhyn about war and the creation of evil people? Are you surprised that he is a pacifist? Are all "makers of mass destruction" pacifists? For example, compare the beliefs of the creators of the atom bomb with suicide bombers of the Middle East. Are they pacifists?
  6. Dummolard says to Llewelyn, "You may be blown to bits next week, but for now, you shall eat like kings." Llewelyn thinks, "I couldn't help but feel there was a more tactful way of putting that." [p. 79] Discuss the role that humor plays in To Kingdom Come. How does it affect the tone of the story? How does it affect your feelings about Llewelyn? [Will: Is there another example of the humor in the book that you like better?]
  7. What does Barker do while posing as van Rhyn to make Dunleavy, O'Casey, and the other members of the I.R.B. faction believe his commitment to their cause? [p. 102] What does he say that make the I.R.B. particularly susceptible to Barker's story?
  8. Llewelyn goes through several rites of passage to be accepted by the I.R.B. faction, from a rough game of hurling to a crushing handshake to a ritual beating and branding ceremony. What is the value of this type of physical bonding?
  9. The famous poet William Yeats is a character in To Kingdom Come. Why did the author include him? How does his inclusion affect the story's tone? Does he add more romance to the I.R.B.'s cause?
  10. Who is the real leader of the I.R.B. faction in To Kingdom Come? What are some of the clues? Why does Thomas not suspect who the real leader is? 12. In the end, Llewelyn is physically battered and broken-hearted. Will he recover? Will he continue to assist Barker? How do we know this? How do you think the relationship between Llewelyn and Barker will evolve over time? How did it change within the course of To Kingdom Come?