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Strumpet City
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This is the spoiler thread for those members who wish to have a more in-depth discussion of Strumpet City without fear of posting spoilers.

Declan. :)


Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Allan wrote: "Having finished the book, it'll be interesting to get a discussion going in here now-I've been listening to two excellent podcasts from RTE on the book today-both are available on iTunes-one, The H..."

I thought all three priests were interesting but not all were fully fleshed-out. I found Yearling intriguing but am not sure who my favorite character was. Rashers was probably the most written about. I didn't feel Fitz was filled out enough. I would have liked to know more about his inner thoughts. The women in the book were not well-defined. Mary was perhaps the best described, and Lily was, at times.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I liked Fr. Giffley. I always find it refreshing to read a character who genuinely doesn't give a damn about how other people think of him. He's usually overlooked by a lot of readers but he's firm favourite of mine and a very powerful character, in my opinion. I liked Yearling, too, but when I originally read the novel I wondered what people would make a dandyish man strolling down the street in a poor neighbourhood buying sweets for all the children. I'll be shocked if everyone doesn't love Rashers and Rusty. I really liked Rashers' friendship with Hennessy. For me it highlighted how close most people at the time were to living on the street. I really can't imagine people nowadays striking a genuine and equal friendship with a homeless man.



I don't agree with changing the dynamic of the Fitzpatrick's relationship. If you show too much of the dysfunction caused by poverty you start taking up too much of the story looking at only one aspect. I've never seen the stage production but I think I'll give it a miss.


message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 10, 2013 11:34AM) (new)

To a certain extent I do think he succeeded in capturing the entire spectrum, but I don't think it was ever going to give real depth to most of the characters. I did feel that Rashers was well crafted and I really felt his death in my guts, but the rest of the characters were very familiar, in spite of their lack of print. Mrs. Bradshaw was more fleshed out than her husband, but as the novel was mostly about the Lockout I think we only needed to see how easily he absolved himself from his transgressions against his tenants and staff.

Barbara wrote: "I thought all three priests were interesting but not all were fully fleshed-out..."

I was happy with their portrayal. Especially especially Frs. Giffley and O'Connor. By the end I knew more than enough about them to understand how they developed their attitudes towards the poor. Father O'Connor's change of heart before the end of the novel seemed perfectly understandable and fairly inevitable. I liked this aspect of the book as the catholic Church/Priesthood wielded significant power over the masses in the South.


Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Allan wrote: "I loved the way both Rashers and Giffley called a spade a spade whatever the consequences in the book-they were described as the cynics of the book on one of the podcasts- it was interesting to see..."

I will qualify this by saying I've never actually read any Dickens though Dickensian seems fair.

Declan - I was also surprised that more wasn't written about the tenement collapse, but I think the author made his point. I remember over 20 years back in Boston a popular school administrator decided to run for mayor. She was well known for being a supporter of progressive causes. Then it turned out she was a "slum lord" as she had lead-paint infested buildings. She didn't run and moved to another state where she rose to School Superintendent.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I kind of agree with Dickensian label as it's portrayal of Dublin's poverty was quite bleak, but from the Dickens novels I've read, and adaptations I've watched, there were always some truly exceptional circumstances/events that were key to the stories. I've always felt that Strumpet City was just an attempt to portray the crippling reality of life in Dublin at the time, which seems a whole universe away from Dublin today.

In the case of the tenement collapse, I think Plunkett used it as a device to show Mr. Bradshaw's cold indifference to the dead. I feel his attitude was more important than the tragedy itself.


message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 10, 2013 03:17PM) (new)

Allan wrote: "What scenes were particularly striking for people..."

Ooh! That's a good question. I did like the scene with Mary and Mrs. Bradshaw and the lack of milk. There was something simultaneously pathetic yet noble about Mary using the baby's, and I remember feeling so relieved at how Mrs. Bradshaw so carefully gave Mary money 'for the child.' I was very moved by the Mulhall incident, but more so by the way Plunkett described his decline. I found it quite harrowing that such a strong and proud man would deteriorate so quickly. It still moves me. I also liked the passage that described how Mrs. Mulhall worried about her husband working on foul weather.

I liked Lily and Pat's relationship. I liked how Pat only saw the girl he grew up with, and to hell with anything else. It seemed like a very loving relationship, but so out of place with the image of Catholic Ireland of the time.

Another seen that left its mark was the blockade at Dublin port preventing the starving children from leaving to be cared for by families in Liverpool. I wanted Yearling to punch the bishop in the face.


Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Declan wrote: "Allan wrote: "What scenes were particularly striking for people..."

Ooh! That's a good question. I did like the scene with Mary and Mrs. Bradshaw and the lack of milk. There was something simultan..."


It was a major contradiction - don't give food packets to striker's families, but keep the children in Dublin, and let them starve.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

It wasn't just the bishops that wielded power. When I was a kid, people used to stand to one side when a priest or nun walked down the street to let them walk past. The reaction of the working men when Fr. Giffley entered the pub put me in mind of this. They were pretty much the new aristocracy after independence.


Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments You remind me that I was a kid in Catholic schools, we were told it was a sin to point at priests or nuns. One day I hid behind a hedge with my younger sister and pointed at every nun or priest that walked by. Nothing happened so I decided it must not be that bad.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

People still have a very superstitious attitude towards the clergy, here. A large portion of Catholics would still bless themselves every time they pass a church.


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 11, 2013 01:29PM) (new)

In terms of veneration of the church, it is far more relaxed than when I was a boy. Most people don't go to church except for Christmas, weddings, christenings etc.

I think at this stage the only thing keeping the church going is the fact that so many rites of passage are tied to it. Most of the non-churchgoing Catholics will still insist on having their children observe all rites up to Confirmation. Things really changed when the sex/paedophilia scandals came to light. People look back now and talk about the industrial schools and Magdalan laundries as though they were part of this shift in attitude, but people were aware for a long time about the deplorable conditions and chose to ignore them.


Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Here in the U.S. immigrants are revitalizing both Catholic and Protestant/Christian congregations. I am not a regular church-goer but when I do go, it's to a Franciscan parish near me. Their mission is to support immigrants and even the English-languages masses are overwhelmingly diverse - Africans, Indians, Latinos etc. They have Spanish and French language masses as well. There are lots of French-speaking Africans in the area. I wonder if Irish churches are also experiencing greater attendance with the large numbers of immigrants now in the country.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

It's kind of strange, but rather than churches seeing an increase in attendance, individual churches which remained closed for years have reopened to offer masses in various different languages, especially Polish and other Eastern European languages.

Most Christian Africans I know attend prayer at locations that were formerly shops, etc. Very few seem to be Catholic.


message 15: by Mo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mo | 81 comments I really enjoyed this novel. I had no knowledge of this period in Irish history. I do have a question, though, that I hope isn't too stupid. I'm not really clear about the title. Did I miss something, but what does does Strumpet City refer to? I have an idea, but I'd like to hear from some of you. Thanks!


I-like-to-read (akakate) @ Mo, that's a good question, I'd like to know the answer to that one to.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

A strumpet is a prostitute. Dublin was somtimes called strumpet city because of the ammount of prostitutes that grew around the numerous British army barracks stationed around the city.

At one time Dublin was considered the red light capital of the world.


Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Declan wrote: "A strumpet is a prostitute. Dublin was somtimes called strumpet city because of the ammount of prostitutes that grew around the numerous British army barracks stationed around the city.

At one tim..."


I knew the meaning of strumpet but not that Dublin was once the red light capital of the world - OMG! I am sure someone has written a book or dissertation on the topic, relationship to the hold of the (Catholic) church, views of sexuality, women as the source of sin (thanks to St. Paul) etc.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

There's real merit to the claim. Montgomery street, alone, was said to be the biggest red light district in Europe. The main districts extended along Brunswick street, Benburb street, Parkgate street and into the Phoenix park as far as the zoo. Leeson street also had a reputation for "high-class" women and boys were available, too.

There are plenty of songs about it. There's "Take Me Up to Monto," "The Zoological Gardens" and one the two main explanations of Molly Malone is that it was a satire of Dublin's VD epidemic. The other is that it was about Typhoid Mary. I tend to believe the VD explanation as it was written around that time by a Scottish composer, and it seems to fit the lyrics better.


message 20: by Mo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mo | 81 comments Thanks for the info, Declan. Like Barbara, I knew the meaning but I didn't know how closely it was associated with Dublin.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

So was I, actually. I went completely against everything I'd heard about Dublin at that time.


Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments I'm considering adding an excerpt from the book to my class but the book is long and rich with details so it would be hard to do.
Wow - this review is a bit over the top, and it is interesting that Irish literature doesn't have other epic historical novels.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

Do you have an excerpt in mind, Barbara? If you have I'd love to know which it is.

I'm sure their must be other epic history novels. Would The Year of the French not qualify. I have this sitting here on my bedside table, waiting to be read, but surely with its size and character scope it must be in the league of epic novels.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for the share, Allan. I'll definitely be listening to it.


Richard Sutton (richardsutton) So... late to the table, as usual. I finished Strumpet yesterday. I enjoyed it, especially Rashers Tierney and Fr. G, who meandered in and out of the plot almost like Greek Theatre devices to remind us of what is real and what isn't. I was also struck by the time-frame. So much can galvanize and solidify in only a few short years, rolling inexorably towards the Proclamation of 1916. The plight of so many of Ireland's working men leaving to find work in England and the continent. I also appreciated the way that the Gentry were split as to how to deal with the collapse of the social order. In the end, they could just pick up and leave for less trying shores, instead of trying to help fix the problems they had created in the first place. The Church was also rightly cast as part of the problem,not part of the solution. Overall, this was one of the best written novels of the social dysfunction that led to open revolt and eventual freedom from the Brit yoke. Labor always seems to lead the charge, worldwide. I had difficulty only with the author's frequent POV shifts without any graphic/typograqphic device to warn the reader, such as a line of asterisks, etc.; but besides that, the writing voice was clear, effectively idiosyncratic and the narrative not ponderous. His sense of place was wonderfully evolved. I was also very pleased with the wry humor that pervaded the entire storyline, especially the bits about the St. Patrick's Masses in Irish that none could understand.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm glad you liked it, Richard. It's a personal favourite of mine. I like the handling of the CC's role in the handling/mishandling of the Lockout. Some individual priests served their parishioners well, but on an institutional level the church behaved despicably.


Richard Sutton (richardsutton) The Church, I suppose having been "recently" re-instated in Ireland by royal/Parliamentary decree, allied itself closely with Dublin Castle and the Ascendant. It seems as though the working Irish Catholic had no recourse but to go along with it. At least it was better than being jailed for attending Mass between the hedgerows. The CC really never relinquished its iron grip until a little bit of relief when the Magdalene Laundries and other examples of slavery were finally abolished. Plunkett illustrates this better than anything else I've ever read on the subject.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Before the Penal Laws Irish Catholicism was just that: Irish Catholicism. It was more liberal than Roman Catholicism is in Ireland today. After the Catholic Emancipation the RCC moved in and filled the vacuum. The rest the say is history.

It's a shame that Irish Catholicism wasn't revived. There would have been far less religious division in Ireland, and the Ulster Covenant might never have been signed.


Richard Sutton (richardsutton) Padraig and those who inherited his mantle created a religious life from the Celtic creeds, I believe closer to what the Lord intended than the political stew Rome handed down. I'm a firm believer that Western Civilization owes it's existence to those monastics who kept the spark alive during the dark ages. I agree that what came down the pike after the end of the penal laws had little resemblance to it's ancestors. But then, that is what Empire breeds -- misshapen, afflicted children. We're still seeing the results all over the world today.


message 30: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments Just finished this fine book. I loved it, 5 stars, review is http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

On to Eureka Street!


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

Excellent review, Ted. It's difficult to convey why SC is such a powerful book in a short review, but I think you've nailed it.


message 32: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments Declan, thanks tremendously for such a nice complement. I really did love the book, I'm so glad it was chosen for the quarterly read.


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

You're welcome, Ted. I'm so glad the was well received by the group. It's one of those outstanding personal favourites that I love to recommend and would be upset if people didn't enjoy.


message 34: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments It really did remind me a bit of the movie Dr Zhivago, as the promotional blurb on the cover of my book attests. The book's treatment of character in the manner that Plunkett does really makes them all come alive.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

In that case I'll have to read Dr Zhivago, Ted. It's one of those novels I've avoided for fear it wouldn't live up to expectations, but I'll take your last comment as a recommendation.


message 36: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments Declan wait! I haven't read it, I've only seen the movie. But I am going to look into reading it. Will have to see who among my friends here has expressed an opinion about it.


message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank for the warning, Ted.


message 38: by Emma (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Flanagan (emma89) I've just finished this book and really enjoyed it.

Plunkett I think really manages to encapsulate the poverty and hardship that existed in Dublin at the time, and really existed well into the 1960s when the tenements were finally cleared. He has a great power of description. Reading it you can almost feel smell, and hear the city clamour.

I would agree with some remarks here about his character descriptions and development. It is at times somewhat weak. However against that he creates the wonderful, and colourful Rashers Tierney. I don't think I could find a match for Rashers anywhere in literature.


message 39: by Emma (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Flanagan (emma89) I think my favourite element of the book was Plunketts portrayal of the comradery between the characters. Their willingness to share what little they had with those around them. None of them ever begrudges lending another a drop of milk or cup of sugar, or more significantly when Mary and Fitz give the Mulhalls the money they had been keeping to send the children away in order that Bernie Mulhall can be buried properly, with dignity, not in a paupers grave. It's that comradery which helps them all survive.


message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

Glad tp hear you liked it, Emma. I constantly recommend this book to people as an all-time favourite.

Out of interest, which characters' development did you find weak?


message 41: by Emma (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Flanagan (emma89) The women mostly. Mary comes across very passive. The women in particular lived hard lives, but they were usually strong women who found a way to make ends meet no matter how hard things got. That doesn't come across in the book. Perhaps it's an issue to do when it was written. I know that recognition of the role women played in the lock out has only really occurred recently during the renewed interest in that period.


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