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0513 | Troubles | J. G. Farrell

0513 | Troubles | J. G. Farrell post image

Context: The pool on our roof was emptied while I read this which provided some great visual synchronicity!

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.


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.


This might reveal the ending. If you want to see the quote, click show

PROGRESS  troublesp
RATING troublesr
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | StyleRead more about how I come up with my ratings
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