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Troubles by J. G. Farrell

Troubles (1970)

by J. G. Farrell

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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
This last book in the series completes my reading of Farrell’s Empire trilogy. I wish I’d read them in order. I actually read them back to front. Troubles is a perfect opener for anyone who wants to read them the right way round.

British Major Brendan Archer finds himself a victim of the magnetic attraction of The Majestic, a hotel in an Ireland under occupation shortly after World War I. Despite it’s name, The Majestic is very much a shadow of its former self. The building is slowly decomposing, its owner and long-term residents living on the memories accrued during the hotel’s glory days decades before.

Herein lies one of many of the symbolic aspects of a novel that starts a trilogy that cleverly satirises the self-inflicted blindness of the British Empire’s most ardent citizens. The hotel’s owner, Edward Spencer, seems determined to maintain protocol in the face of the decreptitude around him. In many ways he is the embryo of the much better written Collector in the second book of the series, The Seige of Krishnapur. His behaviour, like that of the Collector gets more and more eccentric as the situation gets more desperate.

The Major doesn’t intend to stay long after his first visit. But a tentative romance attracts him back and he then finds that he cannot pull himself away despite it being fairly obvious to the reader that both the romance and the hotel are doomed. In a way, he feels obligated to defend and maintain the hotel against the inevitable as the political situation becomes more dangerous to them all.

The characters are all lamentable, the hotel itself is the most dominant, as it should be and it all ends as it should. There’s nothing much uplifting here, but then, long gone is the time when we would speak of any Empire in uplifting terms. So, that’s just as well.

This is an excellent novel and one which encapsulates for me what the novel as an art form is all about: capturing the essence of our human experience and depicting it against the backdrop of human history in a way which later generations can learn from. However, it’s not as good, in my opinion, as The Seige of Krishnapur so make sure you read that after this if you’ve not already.

Farrell was a genius. We lost a lot of literature when he fell in the sea that day. ( )
  arukiyomi | Nov 6, 2015 |
What better way to recover from the the horrors and traumas and PTSDs, or 'nerves' as they so quaintly called it back before they invented PTSD, of the First World War, than a nice quiet stay in Ireland, circa 1920? The peaceful countryside, clement weather and charming locals are like soothing balm for a troubled soul. HAHAHAHA no really the British Empire is crumbling into a shattered morass of blood and resentment and sectarian grudge fights, a bit like the hotel the Major goes to because he may or may not have proposed to the owner's daughter, a bit like Ireland in 1920 when savage Irish leprechauns began chewing at the ankles of the snotty British toffs.

Anyway, the Major's maybe-intended proves weirdly difficult to pin down before abruptly departing from the picture, leaving the Major more confused than begrieved, but a weird fascination and attraction has begun and he finds it difficult to depart, so he finds himself part of the hotel's long slow slide from decrepitude to utter ruination, and cleverly enough, the Irish War of Independence serves as an acute metaphor for this haunting portrait of the severe difficulties in the hotel trade and the Anglo-Irish tourism industry at this time. ( )
1 vote Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
I am fascinated by Ireland and the Irish people and that includes the history this small island has experienced. When this book was proposed as a Group Read for the 1001 Books group on LibraryThing I was delighted to pick it up. And I'm glad I did; it was fascinating (in the way that watching a car accident unfold is).

Major Brendan Archer met the daughter of the owner of a large hotel in Ireland while he was home on leave from the trenches of World War I. Angela Spencer seemed pleasant enough and when she started writing to him as his fiancee he was a little confused but happy enough to continue the correspondence. After the war was over and he was recovered from shell shock he travelled to Ireland to stay in the Majestic and perhaps claim Angela as his bride. His first glimpse of the Majestic astonished the Major with its size but he soon noticed signs of decay and disuse. And his fiancee disappeared almost as soon as he arrived so he was left to wander the hotel and grounds by himself. Although the Major wants to pull away from the decrepit pile he finds himself unable to do so, much as the British landlords found it hard to abandon Ireland despite the threats from the Sinn Feiners. The Major's entanglement with the life of the Majestic is like a fly caught in a spider's web, the harder he struggles, the more he is caught.

This book is not all doom and gloom though. There are many instances where the divers characters ensconced in the Majestic provoke snorts of laughter from the reader although they probably didn't find it humourous. One such occasion is when the permanent guests of the hotel decide to liven things up by having a whist party. The ladies dressed up in their finest which in those days included wearing elaborate hats. One woman's hat was a complete pheasant with long dangling feathers. As the players moved around the room this woman came close to the marmalade cat that was sitting on the lap of an elderly woman who was too blind to play. Overcome by the temptation this headpiece posed the cat jumped from its cozy spot to the top of the woman's head and proceeded to wrestle with the pheasant. And yet, perhaps this incident isn't as funny as it first seemed because the offending cat met an unfortunate end.

In fact, cats have a pretty tough time of it in this book. It was distressing to me and may be one of the things I remember most about this book. If you are bothered by animal hardship then this book may not be one for you. ( )
  gypsysmom | Oct 18, 2015 |
Troubles is a darkly humorous look at the clash between Ireland and England in the years immediately following WWI. Major Brendan Archer travels to Kilnalough after returning from WWI (and a stay in a hospital recovering from shell shock) to meet a girl named Angela who he met and became engaged to during the war. They've only met once and he's not quite sure what he's getting in to - in fact he can barely remember her. He visits her at her family's hotel, the Majestic. The Majestic was an enormous, grand, hotel decades ago, but it is falling apart. Angela dies, but the Major is sucked in to life at the hotel. He becomes friends with Edward, Angela's father, and falls in love with a different girl in Kilnalough. Though the Major tries to leave once or twice, he can't seem to tear himself away from this decaying hotel and the old ladies who are the few remaining guests.

There is a lot of symbolism here. The decaying hotel can be seen both as a reflection of "the Troubles" in Ireland as it fights for independence and as the British Empire crumbling after WWI. The subject is grim but there is a dark humor in this book that keeps it from feeling like a serious book, even considering the serious times.

I really loved reading this and think it will be a memorable book for me. ( )
  japaul22 | Sep 22, 2015 |
I really enjoyed J.G. Farrell's "Troubles"... such a fun read!

Major Brendan Archer has just returned to the war and heads to Ireland to figure out whether he is really engaged to Angela Spencer, whom he corresponded with during the war and seems to have developed an "understanding" with prior to leaving. He stays in her family's crumbling hotel, the Majestic, as the country's unrest over Irish independence, known as The Troubles, starts to reach a fever pitch.

There are great characters here, especially the beleaguered Major who seems unable to fix any of the troubles he encounters. I'm looking forward to reading more of Farrell's novels. ( )
  amerynth | Sep 18, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (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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