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Troubles (New York Review Books Classics) [Kindle Edition]

J.G. Farrell , John Banville
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize

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 fiancée 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.

Editorial Reviews


Remarkable … Mr. Farrell deserves high praise for this novel. It is subtly modulated, richly textured, sad, funny, and altogether memorable.
— Times Literary Supplement

A tour de force … sad, tragic, also very funny.
— The Guardian

Farrell wrote superbly; all his books had a quality that hallmarks great literary talent—he could “do” texture. This album—which is what Troubles feels like—records the same Anglo-Irish as Elizabeth Bowen knew and belonged to. As with Bowen, this feels like the real thing (which is all a novel has to do). Always judge a writer by his grasp of what he doesn’t know: Farrell died young yet his old people are almost his best creations.
— Frank Delaney, The Guardian


'It's funny, sad and beautifully written; it's prescient, wise, original and unexpectedly eccentric. Vote JG, I say. Or even better, just read him.' -- Rachel Cooke OBSERVER '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.' -- John Crace GUARDIAN 'Like Fawlty Towers written by Evelyn Waugh' -- Rachel Cooke Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival, 2010 'I can't praise this book enough. It's a good rule that reviewers should be forbidden from using the word "genius"...But it's hard to know what else to say when faced with a book like Troubles. There's no avoiding it. JG Farrell was a genius.' -- Sam Jordison GUARDIAN BOOKS BLOG 'No finer work has ever been written about this transitional period in Irish history: it remains a landmark in 20th-century Irish literature, and one that deserves to win The One And Only Great Retrospective Booker.' -- Kevin Myers IRISH INDEPENDENT 'Troubles stands up at every stage. It has a fine beginning and a brilliant ending, and is sustained throughout by this wit, laughter and intelligence.' -- Tobias HIll INDEPENDENT 'meaty and magnificentHe [Farrell] is a master at controlling pace, and his writing is satisfyingly solid. He is capable of the most vigorous farce, and then he will bring things to the knife edge of tragedya fine and fitting winner.' -- Philip Womack DAILY TELEGRAPH 'Poignant, meticulously observed, often hilarious, it is one of the finest novels of the past 50 years.' -- Simon Shaw MAIL ON SUNDAY

Product Details

  • File Size: 678 KB
  • Print Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Reprint edition (July 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,672 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
117 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A war without battles or trenches." January 25, 2003
Originally published in 1970 and newly reprinted, Troubles, the story of Ireland's fight for independence from 1919 - 1922, illuminates the attitudes and insensitivities which made revolution a necessity for the Irish people. Farrell also, however, focuses on the personal, human costs to the residential Anglo-Irish aristocracy as they find themselves being driven out of their "homes."
Edward Spencer, a conservative Protestant loyalist, runs a decaying 300-room hotel on the coast of County Wexford. Regarding himself as a benevolent landowner, he nevertheless demands total submission of his tenants and the signing of a loyalty oath to the King. His ironically named Majestic Hotel, lacking maintenance during the war and its aftermath, is now too costly to repair. When British Major Brendan Archer, newly released from hospital, arrives at the Majestic to reintroduce himself to his fiancée Angela, daughter of the proprietor, the reader quickly sees the Majestic as the symbol of a faded aristocracy which has outlived its usefulness. The windows are broken, the roof is leaking, and decorative gewgaws and balconies are hanging loosely, threatening to crash. Walls, floors, and even ceilings, are swelling and cracking from vegetation run wild, and the hotel's ironically named Imperial Bar is "boiling with cats," some of which live inside upholstered chairs and all of which subsist on a diet of rats and mice. Irish rebels live just outside the hotel's perimeter.
With wry humor and a formidable talent for description, Farrell conjures up nightmarish images of life in the hotel, selecting small, vivid details to make the larger thematic picture more real.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully entertaining historical novel May 21, 1999
This novel predates Farrell's Booker Prize-winning novel The Siege of Krishnapur by several years, but it's nearly as good. Set during "the Troubles" in Ireland in the early 1920s, it tells the story of a failing resort hotel, run by a dotty Anglo-Irish family, as seen through the eyes of a veteran of World War I, a shell-shocked British major. Most of violence of the Irish Rebellion takes place offstage, as the family scheme and intrigue against each other, and as the Major hopelessly woos an ironic Irish girl. Troubles is one of those rare books with a successful central metaphor: the hotel itself--leaking, nearly empty, infested with cats--standing in for the decaying Anglo-Irish ascendancy, as forces the Anglo-Irish barely understand creep in from outside to destroy their way of life. Nabokov was a big influence on Farrell, and the prose is elegant and clear-eyed and compassionate all at once. The book is funny, slyly satirical, suspenseful, and even a bit rueful for the loss of this silly way of life. Troubles is a wonderful book.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars James meets Addams ... December 28, 2002
Imagine Henry James collaborating with the macabre cartoonist Charles Addams, with a droller version of Joseph Heller serving as war consultant, and you begin to get an idea of the tone of this captivating novel. Through the first 100 pgs or so it can seem like nothing more than a well-written novel of manners covering familiar territory of upperclass, "the quality," holding on to pretense of gentility(though the discovery of a rotting sheep's head in nightstand drawer early on is a pretty good tip of what's to come), but stay with it because Farrell uses this potentially well-worn setting brilliantly to develop a bizarre but moving story that covers everything from unrequited love to political assassination to existentialism, all with a lyrical prose and bewitching tone that never raises its voice above that of bemused and befuddled exasperation. Farrell creates menace the old-fashioned way, by leaving much of it offstage, described after the fact or reported 2nd and 3rd hand, including newspaper clippings, a la Dos Passos, in the USA Trilogy, or by having it creep up on you unexpectedly like a cold draft from one of the many cracks and darkened, musty corners of the Majestic Hotel, where the ghosts are still alive but unable, or unwilling, to comprehend that the world as they knew it is inexorably disappearing one roof shingle, floor board, and beloved pet at a time. Read more ›
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Deep in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel May 22, 2007
Among the bathtubs and the washbasins

A thousand mushrooms crowd to a keyhole."

"A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford". Derek Mahon.

Irish poet Derek Mahon dedicated the haunting poem quoted above to J.G. Farrell, author of "Troubles". It is a marvelous poem that pays tribute to an absolutely marvelous book; one of the finest books I have read in recent memory.

Farrell, born in Liverpool in 1935 is best-remembered for three books. "Troubles", "The Siege of Krishnapur" (which won Farrell the U.K.'s 1973 Booker Prize), and "The Singapore Grip". Shortly after publication of "The Singapore Grip" Farrell moved to Ireland. He died a few months later when, apparently while fishing, he was swept out to sea and drowned, at age 44. Each of these three books, known collectively as the "Empire Trilogy, is set during a time of crisis in what was once the British Empire. "The Siege of Krishnapur" is set in India during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and "The Singapore Grip" is set in Singapore at the beginning of World War II at the time of the Japanese attack and occupation of Singapore.

"Troubles" takes place in the Irish countryside in 1920, at the height of the turbulence that resulted in the creation of the Irish Republic and the eventual partition of Ireland. The protagonist, the English Major Brendan Archer, is a survivor of the Great War. Upon his demobilization Archer decides to travel from his home in London to Ireland in order to finalize his relationship with Angela Spencer, a young lady he met and perhaps became engaged to, while on leave during the war. Angela's father runs what was once a grand hotel, The Majestic, and Archer finds himself immediately swept up in the collapse of what was once a thriving Anglo-Irish community in Ireland.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Majestic, a grand finale!
I was constantly reminded of The Great Budapest Hotel! Lots of terrific characters and a rather vague plot. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Laurel Macdonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully drawn characters and compelling story set in a unique time...
The novel concerns a group of British people, living together in a grand, crumbling, Irish resort, as the "Troubles" of the title arise and transform the country following... Read more
Published 1 month ago by isecond
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an excellent book written from the viewpoint of a British army...
This is an excellent book written from the viewpoint of a British army major recently returned from World War 1. Read more
Published 7 months ago by David Scoffield
5.0 out of 5 stars humourously written fictional tales of interesting characters set in a...
I liked this book because it had a kind of Downton Abbey setting in an interesting period of history, the shake up after the first world war around the world and a not a little bit... Read more
Published 7 months ago by history fan
2.0 out of 5 stars boring
O thought it would be more about TheTroubles. Not a boring novel. I would not recommend this as actual history
Published 8 months ago by Kathryn
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Slow and no real plot
Published 8 months ago by Elizabeth Fildes
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine book
Farrell's style is superb, clear, evocative and with wonderful flashes of unexpected humor. He engages the reader who has no particular interest in the Irish struggle with England... Read more
Published 11 months ago by E. S. Welber
5.0 out of 5 stars English heads in the sand
I certainly enjoyed this book about the death of English influence in Ireland after WWI where the English residents hadn't a clue that they were through. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Phillip S. Greene
4.0 out of 5 stars SPED UP TOWARDS THE END
Difficult to get into but well worth it. Seems to be a story about English manners set in a turbulent locale. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Clambuti
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific
A classic in many senses of the term - highly recommended. Winner of the "Lost Booker" prize for 1970 and deserves it.
Published 12 months ago by Rebecca Lindroos
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