To Kingdom Come:
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
- 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?
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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?
- 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?]
- 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?
- 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
- 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?
- 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?