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Troubles by J. G. Farrell

Troubles (1970)

by J. G. Farrell

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Major Brendan Archer is headed to Ireland, after surviving The Great War, to find out if he is indeed betrothed to Angela Spencer. He met Angela in Brighton in 1916 and they had kept up a correspondence during his time in the trenches. Her newsy letters were always signed "Your loving fiancee, Angela." But, Brendan doesn't really remember ever having proposed during their brief encounter. He heads to The Majestic hotel, owned by her family, in hopes of disabusing her of this idea. He arrives to find the once grand hotel in a state of disintegration, and Angela strangely avoiding him. His intended brief stay becomes permanent, as he becomes friendly with Angela's father, Edward. The hotel is filled with an strange assortment of permanent elderly guests, Angela's younger sisters, Charity and Faith, brother Ripon, odd servants, and is overrun with cats. As the "Troubles" in Ireland escalate, the hotel crumbles bit by bit around them, and the British Empire crumbles bit by bit outside the walls.

The book is filled with dark humor, and the characters are very well drawn. I loved every bit of it. ( )
  NanaCC | Jul 26, 2015 |
Good throughout, very good to great for most of the last third. Farrell writes in a way that I feel embarrassed for those who are embarrassed, watching those being watched, and very much a part of the book. This is not as gripping as the other two titles in the end of Empire trilogy. ( )
  ebethe | Nov 15, 2014 |
This book was quite the experience...I'm fairly certain the Majestic will remain with me for a long time to come, in all its magnificent improbability. For the Majestic is as much a character in this novel as the actual characters are. From the likely bipolar Edward to the nasty and narcissistic twins, ironically named Faith and Charity, not forgetting about the bevy of formidable elderly ladies and the "cadaverous" and terrifying servant Murphy....I loved it all. I do recommend having at least a passing familiarity with the English-Irish conflict of the time; it will add to your enjoyment of the book. ( )
  AlaMich | Sep 19, 2014 |
Finally got some thoughts in order about this strange, brilliant novel: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/novelreadings/j-g-farrell-troubles
  rmaitzen | Feb 7, 2014 |
Poor Major Brendan Archer has survived the Great War and sets off to Ireland to visit his mysterious fiancée, Angela, at the Majestic, the hotel owned by her family.

Although he was sure that he had never actually proposed to Angela during the few days of their acquaintance, it was beyond doubt that they were engaged: a certainty fostered by the fact that from the very beginning, she had signed her letters "Your fiancée, Angela". This had surprised him at first. But, with the odour of death drifting into the dug-out, it would have been trivial and discourteous behind words to split hairs about such purely social distinctions.

He finds his blushing bride remarkably blasé at his arrival and he decides to end the engagement and head back to England. Except he can't manage to leave the crumbling Majestic, even when it becomes obvious the marriage won't take place. He ends up in a strange friendship with Angela's eccentric father, Edward; comforting and entertaining the group of elderly ladies who have taken permanent residence; reining in Angela's wild twin sisters, Faith and Charity (who are amazing); and becoming a sensible caretaker of sorts for the hotel. Meanwhile, there is significant unrest between the Catholic nationalists and the occupying British, leading to increasing violence in the area.

Troubles is very funny but also quite tragic. Major Archer manages to sort out the various troubles (!) of the residents and hotel because he's the only sensible person around, but he is often seized by ennui and despair of the futility of it all. He listens with cold and indifferent skepticism as people argue over Ireland's independence. He is tortured by an unrequited love affair that is mostly comprised of chaste walks and meaningful silences (my all time fave!). He is worn down by the war and the current state of the world but musters all that is best about being English and just plows through. He's pretty much the best. But it's not a total downer! Even when things are falling apart completely, the book is very funny. Really, actually laughed aloud, funny. And Major Archer is still young enough to be (for the most part) optimistic and hopeful. ( )
1 vote amy_marie26 | Jan 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Set in the Majestic hotel in fictional Kilnalough, County Wexford, Troubles sees Major Brendan Archer travelling to meet Angela, the fiancee he had acquired during an afternoon's leave. The engagement proves shortlived but the major remains in the hotel, hypnotised by its faded charms and ancient inhabitants, as the Irish war of independence is about to begin.

added by peterbrown | editThe Guardian, Alison Flood (May 20, 2010)
Troubles has everything: great story, compelling characters, believable dialogue and big ideas. It's a book good enough to win the Booker in any year. Not just 1970.
added by peterbrown | editThe Guardian, John Crace (Apr 1, 2010)
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In those days the Majestic was still standing in Kilnalough at the very end of a slim peninsula covered with dead pines leaning here and there at odd angles.
“People are insubstantial. They never last. All this fuss, it’s all fuss about nothing. We’re here for a while and then we’re gone. People are insubstantial. They never last at all.”
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140039732, Paperback)

Set against the backdrop of growing tensions in Ireland in 1919, Troubles, written in 1970, is the first novel in J.G. Farrell's "Empire Trilogy". "Troubles" is set on the east coast of Ireland, largely in the Hotel Majestic, a formerly grand building that has seen better days and now generally houses more cats than guests. The listener is taken back to July 1919, when the 'Major' is visiting the Majestic to reunite with his fiancee Angela, the Protestant proprietor Edward Spencer's daughter. The lovers met in Brighton during the War and have since only corresponded long-distance. The welcome he receives is not quite what he expected. He quickly becomes sucked into the political and sociological ethos of the hotel and its inhabitants, and the story builds tantalisingly until its inevitable dramatic conclusion. A touching, often very funny and yet ultimately rather sad story, which will capture the listener's heart and excite their interest with its themes of Irish politics and love, played out in an unlikely and fragile sanctuary. The reader Sean Barrett is an Irish-born actor who has enjoyed success in the theatre, on television and in film.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:44 -0400)

"1919: After surviving the Great War, Major Brendan Archer makes his way to Ireland, hoping to discover whether he is indeed betrothed to Angela Spencer, whose Anglo-Irish family owns the once-aptly-named Majestic Hotel in Kilnalough. But his fiance;e is strangely altered and her family's fortunes have suffered a spectacular decline. The hotel's hundreds of rooms are disintegrating on a grand scale; its few remaining guests thrive on rumors and games of whist; herds of cats have taken over the Imperial Bar and the upper stories; bamboo shoots threaten the foundations; and piglets frolic in the squash court. Meanwhile, the Major is captivated by the beautiful and bitter Sarah Devlin. As housekeeping disasters force him from room to room, outside the order of the British Empire also totters: there is unrest in the East, and in Ireland itself the mounting violence of 'the troubles.' Troubles is a hilarious and heartbreaking work by a modern master of the historical novel"--Publisher description.… (more)

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