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Troubles (2002)

Troubles (2002)

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3.78 of 5 Votes: 5
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1590170180 (ISBN13: 9781590170182)
nyrb classics

About book Troubles (2002)

Fawlty Towers meets The Shadow of a GunmanRecently I mentioned to a bibliophile friend that I liked books that trouble me. So you would think that anything entitled Troubles would be made to measure, the perfect fit. But what I meant was trouble in the sense of disquiet, something that sets up a mild irritation of the spirit and questions complacent assumptions. A niggle, a nagging doubt that my world view might be too narrow, harnessed to the commonplace and too jaded to buck free. That's what good literature is for.What I didn't mean was vexatious and oppressive. This novel won the so-called 'Lost Booker Prize', which came into being when the qualifying rules about the year of publication were changed from those books published in the previous year, to those published in the same year as the award. It was a public vote that decided the winner from the shortlist, and furthermore, discussion with the book group whose May selection this was brought home to me the troubling insight that my views on this, umm, great novel diverge radically from general opinion. Not that that worries me in itself. After all, there's more than one bestseller out there whose popularity is a mystery to me. But what defeats me is the appeal of this particular highly acclaimed one: what is supposed to be so good about it?It starts off well. The potential is there, in the concept of a dilapidated Irish hotel (The Majestic! ha!) as a cipher for the crumbling British Empire, still kept vaguely in service as a refuge for some old ladies (I'm beginning to feel lots of generalised sympathy for old ladies) by a self-indulgent, amateurish Anglo-Protestant aristocrat, quietly losing his marbles as the world around him is overrun by cats and turns into a guerilla war zone. Major Archer comes for a visit, half convinced that he is engaged to the invisible daughter, although no longer convinced that he wishes to be. And to begin with, the comedy is not merely a potential, but a reality. However in part two, the various plot lines that were jogging along on good firm ground suddenly hit soft sand. They stagger. The characters seem to be affected by frustrating paralysis. There's no reason for the Major to stay, but stay he does. Anyway, it has to end somehow (badly, of course. This is the War of Irish Independence, it's not going to be pretty), so the motor gets put into overdrive, there is a huge crashing of the gears and we move into history as farce. Oh, I know it is satire, I know it is farcical, not to be taken seriously, I know the atmosphere is meant to be nightmarish, a ludicrous situation that can only be resolved by violent means. But, but. It becomes histrionic, overwrought. Not funny. Nor should it be, for goodness' sake, this was a war of tit for tat atrocities. And as the weeks go by since I read this, what remains are troubling images of unprotected young girls, too drunk to realize they are being raped, however ineptly; exploding cats; and the Major buried upright to his neck on the shore. Ineptitude again, he was buried above the high tide mark (!) so has to be dug out and re-buried further down. Don't worry though, the little old ladies come through. Farce, yes. Funny, no.

I read this originally 3 years ago, having heard about it as a result of it winning the lost Booker prize, and while at the outset I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it, I absolutely loved the book at the time. My opinion was only strengthened by my reread.Set initially in 1919, in an Ireland increasingly ravaged by the 'troubles' or the 'War of Independence' depending on the political outlook of the characters, it tells the story of Major Brendan Archer, who comes to the Majestic Hotel in Killnalough, initially to visit his 'fiancée'. His visit is intended to be short, but the idiosyncrasies of the hotel and its residents result in an increasing bond with both, that grows stronger with time, despite the increasingly volatile nature of events, both inside and outside the walls of the vast building.This book is part of Farrell's Empire trilogy, and the metaphor of the crumbling hotel in this context seems obvious, but while there are serious events portrayed, the novel is laugh out loud in many places, and one can't help both loving the residents, and enjoying reading about the ludicrous situations in which they often find themselves. Indeed, despite the vivid description of the decaying hotel and the terrible service provided for its guests, I found myself wishing, as I did on first reading, that I could visit the place and stay myself.On the strength of my reread, I've bought the other two books in the trilogy, and look forward to comparing their quality with the highly enjoyable content in this timeless classic!

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A totally delicious read, a combination of history and irony. Farrell's writing style is so visual, that I feel that I have been living in the Majestic Hotel in Kilnalough myself for the past month.The protagonist of the book, British Major Archer, stays in Ireland and in the Majestic without any real purpose (although there was a purpose to his arrival in the beginning), and it's only one of the many absurdities surrounding the lives of the characters of the book. The Majestic, a metaphor to the crumbling British Empire, is a crumbling and surreal place itself, full of old ladies, cats and a wildly spreading jungle of plants. The Major is simple-minded (although good hearted and likable against all odds) and struggles to grasp the meaning not only of the historical events around him (the Irish rising against the British rule), but also of his own personal "troubles", such as the unsuccessful love to Sarah, a smart catholic girl. The Majestic to me is a metaphorical laboratory of oblivion, a shelter from reality, strangely attractive in spite of its decaying state. Don't we all tend to hide from the unpleasant reality and deny it even when our arguments have been invalidated long ago? I am definitely looking forward to read the following parts of the trilogy!

This book has gotten a lot of hype recently due to winning the 'lost' man Booker prize. Initially I was reluctant to read it, considering that scumbag Kevin Myers heartily endorsed it. Luckily I overcame this prejudice.The book is layered. Superficially, Farrell's witticisms and turns of phrase provide a rich supply of comic relief in a decaying, barren old hotel populated by cats, old ladies, and the rotten remnant of the Anglo Irish Ascendancy. It is set in the Anglo-Irish War, though I would struggle to call it a 'war novel'. The setting is instead in the context of a quiet corner of a fiercely localised war, with no fronts, and no trenches, just rumours of murder and atrocity and general terror. The war itself only becomes blatently obvious in the last 100 pages or so.On a deeper level, its a clever deconstruction of colonial Ireland, which is in the process of decay - and as this book illustrates, has been for a century. The English Major, who stumbles into this locale and seems incapable of leaving, is a bit like the baffled and confused English administration, vainly trying to understand and to some extent 'fix' the Irish problem. Then there is Edward, the raging bigot, slightly insane, and custodian of the dying Irish ascendancy. The senile old Catholic doctor - coarse, confused, rude, and Republican, represents the anger and confusion of the old Castle Catholic Ireland, unable to understand or comprehend anything thats going on, saddling two distinct worlds, altogether unhappy.Lets not mention the Black and Tans. No surprises there.There is more I can say about this, as Troubles is an imaginative, clever novel, that is thought provoking and moving. The best book I've read so far this year.

Through much of my reading of this, especially as the story progresses and gets darker, the refrain of Fun Boy Three's "The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)" ran through my head. In the novel, though, the lunatics haven't taken over the 'asylum,' 'they' have always run it, the craziness of the main so-called caretaker becoming more and more apparent as the "troubles' increase. The ending is inevitable.This is sharp satire, an overarching analogy within a reality. It's a bit long-winded and a bit repetitive at times, but I never wanted to stop reading it: the prose is that good and the imagery is always vivid, almost to excess. It's not as tight as The Siege of Krishnapur, which I found perfect.

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