Troubles (New York Review Books Classics Series)

Troubles (New York Review Books Classics Series)

by J. G. Farrell, John Banville

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590174180
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 07/14/2010
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 146,331
File size: 632 KB

About the Author

J.G.Farrell (1935–1979) was born with a caul, long considered a sign of good fortune. Academically and athletically gifted, Farrell grew up in England and Ireland. In 1956, during his first term at Oxford, he suffered what seemed a minor injury on the rugby pitch. Within days, however, he was diagnosed with polio, which nearly killed him and left him permanently weakened. Farrell’s early novels, which include The Lung and A Girl in the Head,have been overshadowed by his Empire Trilogy—Troubles, the Booker Prize–winning Siege of Krishnapur, and The Singapore Grip (all three are published by NYRB Classics). In early 1979, Farrell bought a farmhouse in Bantry Bay on the Irish coast. “I’ve been trying to write,” he admitted, “but there are so many competing interests–the prime one at the moment is fishing off the rocks… . Then a colony of bees has come to live above my back door and I’m thinking of turning them into my feudal retainers.” On August 11, Farrell was hit by a wave while fishing and was washed out to sea. His body was found a month later. A biography of J.G. Farrell, J.G. Farrell: The Making of a Writerby Lavinia Greacen, was published by Bloomsbury in 1999.

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of many novels, including The Book of EvidenceThe Untouchable, and Eclipse. Banville’s novel The Sea was awarded the 2005 Man Booker Prize. On occasion he writes under the pen name Benjamin Black.

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Troubles 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book haunts. I first read it 20 years ago and found that I had to read it again. Our hapless hero won my sympathy still, but I found his plight in that shambles of house even funnier the second time round. There was a Saki quality to it all and I never wanted it to end.
CR-Buell More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in Farrell's Empire Trilogy (though the books don't have to be read in order, since the only connection between them is thematic), which explores the decline of the British Empire. Troubles is set in 1919 Ireland, the year of the Irish War of Independence, and attempts to explore the volatile issues which drove the times, though hardly touching directly on the war itself (no live I.R.A or Sinn Fein member ever appears 'on screen'). Through humor and metaphor Farrell tackles the larger picture, while through the direct narrative he deals with the individual lives affected. And it is these characters who give this novel its life. You have Major Archer, fresh from the trenches of France, who's come to the Majestic Hotel in Ireland to see if he's still engaged to a woman he can hardly remember. The Major is struggling to come to terms with a post WWI world, and is caught between his upbringing in the clearly defined moral and social codes of a pre-war British Empire, and the new reality of a changing world. This is most apparent in the Major's vacillation between a pro-Unionist stance, where he feels his loyalties should lie, and his sympathies toward the Irish people, who he clearly sees are oppressed. Then you have Edward Spencer, owner of the Majestic, a staunch Unionist who no longer even sees the Irish people as humans. Edward feels strongly that the Irish stabbed the English in the back by rebelling in 1916 while, as he puts it, Englishmen where dying in the trenches of France to "protect Ireland from the Kaiser". It doesn't matter to him that, as one character points out, tens of thousands of Irish Catholics were also dying in those trenches. Nor does it ever don on him to question, as another character points out, why the Irish should care which foreign invader ruled them. Then there's Sarah Devlin, a young Irish woman, who seems caught between her Republican ideals and her desire to be a part of the Anglo-Irish "quality". The guilt of her enchantment with the culture of the "enemy" leads her to continually sabotage her own life, and unfortunately hurt others in the bargain. Alongside these three we have a gaggle of old ladies, permanent guests at the Majestic; Murphy, the Irish manservant who is slowly becoming dangerously unhinged; and a herd of half-wild cats, who've taken over the upper stories of the hotel. Presiding over all is the once grand Majestic Hotel, now rapidly and spectacularly declining. A note on the NYRB edition: This edition contains an introduction by John Banville. The introduction contains some spoilers, so you might want to hold off reading it until after you've finished the novel.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing 4 months ago
Major Brendan Archer, just released from treatment for shell-shock after the first war, is headed to the Majestic Hotel in Kilnalough, Ireland, to meet a young woman who may or may not be his fiancée. He's not quite sure what the agreement he made with Angela Spencer was that one time they met in 1916 and shared a drunken kiss, but she's written to him throughout the war in great detail about her family and their life at the Majestic Hotel, which is owned by her father, Edward Spencer, each time signing the letters as his betrothed. When he arrives at the hotel, he's surprised to find it in a state of utter disrepair and with no service or proper amenities to speak of. He sees Angela once or twice very briefly and has no chance to straighten things out with her before she's taken to her bed with a grave illness. As he gets better acquainted with the hotel's permanent elderly guests, who haven't paid for their stay in many years, and grows accustomed to the growing army of cats overtaking the place, he also befriends Edward and finds some sort of routine amid the wreckage of the once splendid resort. He shares his time with the bereaved Spencer family, who are mourning Angela's passing, with Edward sinking quickly into more and more bizarre behaviour, Angela's infernal twin sisters, and a local Catholic Kilnalough girl called Sarah, who may or may not be an invalid. All this amid the chaos of an Ireland shaken by mounting violence and terrorism as the Irish republicans, seek to free themselves from British rule and brutality. Filled with humour and amusing anecdotes, and interspersed with news clippings, this is a novel that gives plenty for the reader to reflect upon. Strongly recommended.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing 4 months ago
Troubles, the winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize, is the first novel of Farrell's Empire Trilogy, which also includes The Siege of Krishnapur, the 1973 Booker Prize winner, and The Singapore Grip, which was published in 1978, just prior to his untimely death in a drowning accident the following year.The novel begins in 1919, as Major Brendan Archer has been demobilized from the British Army at the end of World War I. He travels to a seaside town in Ireland to meet Angela Spencer, an Anglo-Irish Protestant woman who he met on leave during the Great War, who he may¿or may not¿have proposed to. Her widowed father, Edward, is the owner of the Majestic, an formerly opulent hotel that is slowly falling into ruin, overrun by jungle like foliage that has taken over the Palm Room and a massive colony of cats that own the upper floors. Angela initially welcomes the Major on his arrival, but soon disappears within the confines of the massive and mysterious Majestic. As he searches for Angela, Archer meets the hotel's residents, which include Angela's wild twin teenage sisters and her wayward brother, the elderly women that have become permanent fixtures, and the utterly useless staff. Outside of the Majestic, the townspeople, who are mainly Irish Catholics at the edge of starvation, become increasingly concerned and involved in the Irish independence movement, which moves from the cities to the smaller towns. Farrell inserts news clippings about the Troubles throughout the novel, along with reports about independence and civil rights movements in India, the United States and elsewhere. The Major leaves for England, but soon returns to become as much of a fixture as the Spencers and the elderly women. The hotel continues to crumble, and simultaneously the violence in town, led by members of Sinn Féin, creeps slowly toward the Majestic and its residents.The novel is filled with the sharp and biting humor that enlivens The Siege of Krishnapur. A typical example is this exchange, which follows the discovery that the twins' pet rabbit has been shot by one of the Black and Tans, the unruly British soldiers that have been recruited to keep order during the Troubles:Moved and angry (but the "men from the trenches" were not to know that this was not a wild rabbit), the Major went to break the news to the twins, who were down by the tennis courts trying to persuade Seán Murphy to teach them how to drive the Standard (though Edward had forbidden this until they were older). The twins were not as upset as the Major expected them to be."Can we eat him?" they wanted to know."He's already buried.""We could dig him up," Faith suggested. "Aren't rabbits' feets supposed to be lucky?"But the Major said he had forgotten where the grave was."Were the bullet-holes bad?""How d'you mean? They were bad for the rabbit.""No, I was just thinking we could have made a fur hat," said Charity, "if there weren't too many holes in him."Troubles is a slightly better novel than the excellent The Siege of Krishnapur, as its main characters are more complex and richly portrayed in the first book. The hotel is a superb metaphor for the decline of the British Empire, as Farrell's light but firm touch keeps it from being an overworked and heavy handed one.
Joycepa on LibraryThing 4 months ago
As in The Siege of Krishanpur, Farrell, in this book set against the increasing violence against the English in the Irish struggle for independence, created, in his characters, parodies of the English ruling class, holding them up to ridicule rather than sympathy for being caught up in a tragedy. In Farrell¿s view, clearly the English have caused their own tragedy; he spotlights a (fictional) group of English people living at the deteriorating Majestic Hotel in County Wexford, Ireland as a way of demonstrating this belief.The protagonist, Major Brendan Archer, newly ¿demobbed¿ from the army and still jittery from the trenches, arrives at the Majestic Hotel to see his ¿fiancée¿¿if that is really what Angela Spencer is¿certainly no one is less certain of their status than Archer is. That alone gives a vital clue about Archer¿s character¿he is almost as hapless (although not quite) as Pierre Bezuhov in War and Peace. He eventually falls in love with a young Irish woman who leads him on a merry chase.Edward, Angela¿s father, is the owner of the Majestic, and a fierce Unionist¿adamantly opposed to any kind of autonomy for the Irish whom he despises. Angela makes a brief appearance only to disappear, leaving the Major as confused as ever about their status; shortly, Archer learns that she¿s died of leukemia; he never knew she was sick in all their long correspondence during the war. Ripon, Edward¿s son, is a ne¿er-do-well who is totally disinterested in having anything to do with the Majestic. There are a group of little old ladies, retired, nearly destitute but soldiering on in the Majestic, more or less on Edward¿s complaisance. Which, it should be said is more out of an inability to tend to any sort of real business than from compassion. The old women, in the end, turn out to have more courage and common sense than the totality of all the other English combined. There is an old and definitely crazy Irish butler who spends most of his time ducking out of work. Any sane person would, in the Majestic.The hotel is falling apart, but Edward is incapable of making the decision necessary to repair and maintain the place. Some of the best scenes in the book are the consequences of this total lack of attention. The major has no sheets on his bed and isn¿t able to either seek them out or have some one bring them for days. Pieces of the building fall off. In one hilarious section, roots from trees in the palm court invade the building and push up through the rotting floors, looking like blanched legs of corpses. The deteriorating hotel, of course, is symbolic of the falling apart of British rule in southern Ireland, set against a picture of starving Irish, with women scrounging through dumpsters for anything resembling food to feed their families. Some of the descriptions of the plight of the Irish are harrowing. through it all, except for the Major, the English are pretty much indifferent or else feel that the Irish somehow deserve their fate by being an inferior race. You're not left in any doubt why the Irish, again and again, rebelled violently against British occupation and rule.Through all this, Edward pursues his twin enthusiasms of irrelevant projects and damning the Irish. Major Archer who, at first is sympathetic towards the Irish, soon falls under Edward¿s sway to the extent that he, too, appalled by the daily violence and rising toll of corpses, sides with the Unionists, at least for a while.In what is really the climax of the story, Edward, in a burst of enthusiasm to restore the majestic to its former glory, holds a ball¿which, of course, is a disaster, but a brilliantly described one. The book continues to a bizarre but fitting end.The art of mockery is exactly that¿an art. When overdone, it bores; underdone, and you¿re left wondering what the point was and with annoyance with the author. I think that Farrell struck just the right balance, never overindulging, and presenting the story almost as a
cameling on LibraryThing 4 months ago
The seriousness of the Anglo-Irish problems in the 1920s is lightened with a touch of whimsy in this entertaining historical novel. The Irish fight for independence from the English is highlighted through short news articles scattered throughout the book, providing a progressive timeline to the rebellion. But it's the characters that are the subtle gems in this book.Having survived WWI, Major Brendan Archer makes his way to Ireland, to find out if, Angela, the woman with whom he'd been corresponding during the war, is indeed his fiance. When he arrives at Hotel Majestic, however, the pale and listless woman he is introduced to bears no resemblance to the woman he met and shared a kiss with before he shipped out. He meets Edward, the patriarch and conservative Protestant proprietor of the Majestic, Ripon, the wayward son and brother to Angela, and various elderly regular guests to the Majestic. The hotel is crumbling, sorely in need of repairs and mostly gloomy, giving the reader a sense of claustrophobia. By the by, the Major also meets and is fascinated by Sarah, an Irish girl. One gets the feeling of being on a train when reading this book, slowly pulling out of the station, gradually building up speed, and then hurtling towards a final destination. It's such a pleasure reading Farrel's beautiful prose. His injection of humor and whimsy in the characters from time to time only serves to contrast sharply with the darker metaphors represented.
lizchris on LibraryThing 4 months ago
This is the story set in 1919 about a crumbling Irish hotel, English people who are still living in Ireland but fearful of Irish Nationalism and local violence, and of peculiar, mismatched relationships.Our narrator is a British Major who has accidentally ended up engaged to the daughter of the hotel owner; he turns up and seems unable to leave. It's frustrating at times. Although he says a lot, we know very little about why he acts as he does. Throw in feral cats, plants taking over inside the hotel and a cast of elderly ladies (why are they there?), and this is a book that's hard to categorise, populated by characters that can be funny but are more often exasperating. I should probably have read this as a metaphor for the overall collapse of English political and moral authority in Ireland but that seems both too heavy and too obvious.
brenzi on LibraryThing 4 months ago
In 1970, J.G. Farrell wrote an epic novel that is bound to land on many reader¿s ¿Best Historical Fiction¿ lists. Sprawling, wonderfully contrived, beautifully written, filled with complex characters and dark, biting humor, the book is part of Farrell¿s Empire Trilogy, and came to my attention as the recent winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize for 1970.The setting is 1919 Ireland; the ¿troubles¿ are the result of the undeclared war between the Sinn Fein/IRA Catholics and the British army, ¿a war without battles or trenches (Page 171).¿ In Kilnalough, stands the once aptly named 300 room Majestic Hotel, owned by the aristocratic Spencer family. Now overrun by cats and vegetation, its glory days are over and it is in a continually increasing state of disrepair. Enter Major Brendan Archer; recently recovered from shell shock. His service in the Great War now over, he has come to uncover the mystery surrounding his engagement to Angela Spencer, an engagement that he has no recollection of. His first glimpse of the hotel reveals its shabbiness, and as the book progresses this spirals into a situation of utter decay where its collapse may be imminent. The residents of the hotel, mostly a sparse group of elderly women who have nowhere else to go, as well as the dwindling staff, struggle to keep up appearances. The hotel serves as a metaphor for the British Empire as a whole, which is also disintegrating in much the same manner. Farrell demonstrates this by inserting brief news articles periodically throughout the narrative that outline this phenomenon, as well as the actual political strife in Ireland in 1919-1922.For reasons unknown, the Major is drawn in by the hotel and its spirited owner, Edward Spencer and he is increasingly attracted to the lovely Sarah Devlin. So although there is nothing holding him there, he cannot force himself to leave and he continues in residence, moving among the hotel¿s empty rooms and taking on more and more of the hotel¿s burdens as Edward loses more and more of his sanity. In the background, the increasing violence of the ¿troubles¿ touches all of them:¿¿It was perfectly fair!¿ Edward repeated, cracking his knuckles. True, the Major was thinking. Edward probably did not see Sinn Feiners as people at all. He saw them as a species of game that one could only shoot according to a very brief and complicated season (that is to say, when one caught one of them in the act of setting off bombs).¿ (Page 428)Farrell sprinkles his narrative with nightmarish and darkly humorous anecdotes of life at the hotel and it¿s the minutiae of daily living that allows the reader to appreciate the horror of the situation. Painstakingly researched with carefully drawn characters and a driving plot aimed at a rising crescendo of violence combine to produce a work of historical fiction that is not to be missed. Very highly recommended.
drudmann on LibraryThing 4 months ago
"Troubles" appears to be symbolically describing the complex relationship between Britain and Ireland through characters who stay at the Magestic hotel. It's a little like the Eagle's "Hotel California"--the visiting English travelers have a tendency to stay there for much too long. Humorous, very well written, and engaging, but feels long--not for a lack of interesting events, so much as the main characters are often unlikeable (in realistic ways). A very interesting book; one that I probably would have gotten more out of, if I had a greater knowledge of the English-Ireland "troubles."
Wicklowman More than 1 year ago
Wonderful to discover this brilliant writer. His observations of the sordid violence and clueless governance of Ireland in the 1920s as seen from the decaying Majestic Hotel are endlessly fascinating. With a cast of characters both eccentric and tragic, events unfold, or should I say, implode, with a dark and often hilarious inevitability.
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