Reading guide for John the Revelator by Peter Murphy

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

John the Revelator

A Novel

by Peter Murphy

John the Revelator by Peter Murphy X
John the Revelator by Peter Murphy
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2009, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2010, 272 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

Introduction
Stuck in a small town in the otherworldly landscape of southeast Ireland, John Devine lives in a tiny house worried over by his single, chain-smoking, Bible-quoting mother, Lily, and spied on by the "neighborly" Mrs. Nagle. When Jamey Corboy, a self-styled Rimbaudian boy wonder, arrives in town, John's life suddenly seems full of possibility. His loneliness dissipates. He is taken up by mischief and discovery, hiding in the world beyond as Lily's mysterious illness worsens. But Jamey and John's nose for trouble may be their undoing, and soon John will be faced with a terrible moral dilemma.

Discussion Points

  1. This novel is a wondrous mix of biblical mythology, science, and dark dreams. Did the blurred line between reality and fantasy enhance your reading experience or make it more difficult for you to understand?
  2. What does it tell you about John when, on page 10, he shares a few bits of information about parasites and worms from his new book and then draws the connection between Maggotoriums and the purportedly healing smell that arose from St. John's grave?
  3. Lily is a religious woman who strives to keep her son on the straight and narrow path. Why does she name him John? Why do you think the author titled the book John the Revelator instead of John Divine or something else entirely?
  4. On page 23, John puts a wasp and a caterpillar in a jar so that the wasp can inject the caterpillar with its eggs. Do you think this makes John a cruel boy? Why or why not? What do you think his fascination with the dark stems from?
  5. Animals have served as symbols and portents throughout human history. In this novel, crows make several appearances. Identify each time a crow appears in the story, and discuss the possible meanings behind this recurring story element.
  6. On pages 30–31, Lily tells John the story of Labhra Loingseach. What is the lesson of this parable, and why does she tell it to John at this point? How does the story relate to the events of the novel?
  7. Throughout the novel, John is exposed to three major figures of womanhood: Molly Ross, the young lover who takes his virginity; Lily, his mother, who raises him alone; and Mrs. Nagle, the strange crone who seems to both help and intrude on the Divines. Discuss the roles that these women play in John's life and how they are portrayed in the novel.
  8. Having spent most of his life without any real friends or male role models, John takes to Jamey immediately. He later tells his mother that when Jamey left Kilcody for good, he felt that "something inside of me died, like I was a twin whose body had absorbed that of his brother, and now he lived in me" (p. 210). What is it about Jamey that attracts John?
  9. While drunk, John commits horrible blasphemy in the church, which Jamey captures on film. Though Jamey asks him, John is never able to explain exactly why he flipped out the way he did. What do you think happened? Were you surprised that Jamey continued to write to him, even though John let him take the blame? What did you expect to happen when Jamey was released from the boys' home?
  10. Despite their closeness, John ultimately betrays Jamey. And yet Jamey continues to send postcards and stories to John, even after he leaves town. Discuss the intricacies of this strange friendship, and compare it to other famous literary duos. What other books have you read that place a young friendship at their center? How do these relationships influence the protagonists, compared to how Jamey's friendship influences John?
  11. Several threads, major and minor, weave through this story, creating an odd pattern of tall tales, literature, dreams, myths, lies, and, somewhere in the midst of it all, a bit of truth. Discuss the various subplots the author has created and follow their paths to their conclusions. Was there anything that you felt was not satisfactorily resolved?
  12. Of all the places to go, why do you think John chooses to retreat to Blowhole Cove after his mother's funeral? Do you think he finds solace in the end? What did you make of the ending?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Mariner Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Seek You
    Seek You
    by Kristen Radtke
    In the first pages of Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Kristen Radtke's sophomore ...
  • Book Jacket: The Man Who Hated Women
    The Man Who Hated Women
    by Amy Sohn
    If debates over women's reproductive health seem stuck in an earlier era — the fact that birth...
  • Book Jacket: The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    by Honorée Fannone Jeffers
    Honorée Fannone Jeffers' The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois explores the Black experience in ...
  • Book Jacket: Beautiful World, Where Are You
    Beautiful World, Where Are You
    by Sally Rooney
    Beautiful World, Where Are You centers around four key characters, the most prominent of which are ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
In Every Mirror She's Black
by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
An arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Never Saw Me Coming
    by Vera Kurian

    "Fun, entertaining and hard to put down."
    The New York Journal of Books

  • Book Jacket

    The Lost Notebook of Edouard Manet
    by Maureen Gibbon

    A sensual portrait of Manet's last years, and a vibrant testament of the artistic spirit.

Who Said...

In war there are no unwounded soldiers

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Pull Y U B T B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.