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Showing 1-10 of 76 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 110 reviews
on October 2, 2014
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 in the tiny corner of the world that is Ireland. There is a lot of humour in this book, in the telling but also truths and silliness and sadness too. The story is set in the period 1919 to 1921, in a shabby rundown huge hotel located in rural Ireland on the south east coast of the island. Through the eyes of somewhat shell shocked Major Brendan Archer, recently of the British Army and western front, the tales of the goings on around this shambolic building and amongst the family of the hotel owners and the denizens of the surrounding area is quite diverting, well written. At times sad, sombre and deadly serious the book is by in large carved out of a humourous block of silliness not unlike that of world view of catch 22 author Joseph Heller or such other writers. However the story is its own and bears no relation to aforementioned 22, still its a quick and generally diverting read well told, quick, well expressed and not a little cheeky at times. I enjoyed this title and liked the authors style, story and writing ability so much so I will consider reading some other of his works.
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on May 10, 2015
I was constantly reminded of The Great Budapest Hotel! Lots of terrific characters and a rather vague plot. However, in this novel, we know the plot and the outcome beforehand, the fall of the British Empire in Ireland! We know the British are doomed, but we're waiting to see how our protagonist, the Major, is going to experience it!

What makes the novel great is that the vehicle for showcasing this rather disturbing and ongoing decay and destruction is The Majestic, a grand hotel run by a most ardent and sympathetic Anglophile. The hotel is a metaphor for England's vast imperial reach, and as the Empire crumbles, so does the hotel. The roots from the tropical plants in the Palm Court have broken through the floor and are consequently eroding the hotel's foundation...just as the colonial outposts themselves were difficult to maintain and eventually fell into ruin. The owner of the hotel is incredibly irresponsible with his twin daughters, giving them no supervision, direction, or education...reminiscent of the crown's handling of people it sent to distant outposts. The Major, as a representative of the military, is completely paralyzed through most of the book (although he is able to take charge in the final hours). And the side story to all this grandeur falling into ruin are the Irish, ragged and hungry, living on the periphery of The Majestic!
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J.G. Farrell was an amazing writer, and this is certainly one of his best books. "Troubles" is an episode in the author's "fall of the British Empire' series that brilliantly chronicles the last year or two of British rule in the southern provinces of Ireland after 300 years of total political and social dominance. The story is told through the lives of a handful of English and Anglo-Irish living in and around a decaying behemoth of a resort hotel on the Irish Coast. The characters are beautifully drawn--a slightly clueless but honorable WWI veteran, the Colonel Blimpesque owner of the hotel and his daughters, a gaggle of Victorian-era elderly ladies resident in the hotel, and various local townies who are connected to the denizens of the resort through liaisons, friendships and rivalries.

The hotel itself--The Majestic--is very much a principal player in the story as it gradually falls apart physically, causing the mental disintegration of its owner and the discomfort and eventual disloging of its residents.

The language and storyline of this novel are skillfully done--in turn witty, hilarious, ironic, tragic and redemptive--very much on a par in quality with the books of Evelyn Waugh. The effect is like watching a train wreck in slow-motion, but enjoying the long, slow slide in its every minute.

This is extraordinary writing. Farrell's other major works--"The Singapore Grip" and "The Siege of Krishnapur" are equally wonderful reading. The only thing that detracts in the least from these books is the fore-knowlege that author Farrell died a young man, leaving a limited output of work to be savored.
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on April 3, 2015
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 the First World War. The central character is the Major, a young British gentleman returned from the war, recently treated for 'shellshock', his personality a combination of fortitude, reticent gentility and battle weariness. The opportunity to know this character, beautifully, subtly written, is enough to make this a revelation. His development, and the mystery of his ultimate fate, is continuously compelling. Along the way, the other characters are just as fully human, revealed through the narrator's objective reporting of their actions and the viewpoint of the Major. The story seamlessly weaves these interesting unique characters into the unexpected setting and events. At heart, this is an antiwar novel, without stridency, condescension or hectoring - just humanity. Gloriously good writing - from the first, the reader fully trusts the author as a host on this journey to the moving conclusion. Everything about this novel feels original. A fine literary experience all around. One of the great finds of a recommendation from Amazon "based on my other purchases." Amazon was right. Loved it.
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on May 13, 2014
Full of understated humor, this book is entertaining, but the charters' ennui got to me and I struggled to finish it. British novel writers are my favorites, especially Man Booker prize winners, but this plot stalled with indecision among the characters. They were like mosquitoes trapped in resin. Some of the scenes were positively grotesque. The Majestic Hotel, a once elegant hotel and spa, but now caving in around the characters' ears, is a metaphor for the decline of the British empire after WW1. The Brits in southern Ireland displayed disdain for the Irish and treated them with the same cruelties and disrespect that they treated any of their empire's subjects. Those colonialist attitudes were prevailing at the time, but are painful to witness today. The author, with his wry humor, impales his fellow countrymen with caustic wit and the Brits become the rubes and the Irish prevail.
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on December 20, 2012
I enjoy this book because of the great, strong characters that Mr. Farrell builds in his fascinating story. I love the dry British and Irish humor. I did not want to put this book down. the story is so compelling and a vivid portrayal of the period. There is plenty of humor in this book, but the climactic "Troubles" brought about by 800 years of British rule and horrific treatment of the Irish is told beautifully from a British view point that takes the Major, and the British, time to grasp the "why." There were many uprisings in the 800 years of British rule. This is the period of the fall of the British Empire. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a great story, or knows anything of the "Troubles." I would also recommend this book to any person who wishes to see how an Empire breaks to pieces.

Allen Schweiger
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on April 9, 2013
I recently read another of J.G. Farrell's novels, The Siege of Krishnapur. I agree with John Banville, who wrote the introduction to this new edition of The Troubles:

"Although The Siege of Krishnapur won the Booker Prize in 1973, Troubles is surely his masterpiece, and the book of his that is certain to endure."

On the other hand, I have some of the same thoughts about The Troubles that I had about The Siege of Krishnapur. The pace is too slow, the characters are only two-dimensional at best, and the meaning of the action is left to the imagination. Because the author was Irish and set The Troubles in Ireland of the early 1920's, I expected more personal passion for the story. The uprisings in India about 1875 might seem remote to an author writing in the 1970's but the revolution in Ireland was only fifty years earlier. Moreover, the rebellion was flaring again as the author was writing.

The setting for The Troubles is a badly deteriorating grand hotel within easy travelling distance of Dublin, along a beautiful stretch of shoreline. As the troubles and open rebellion flares, following the end of World War I, a Major who fought in the war visits a girl to whom he was "engaged". He stays at the hotel, now occupied by a handful of very old single women, a few servants, and his fiancee's father and family. Relations with the nearby town deteriorate during the novel, almost as rapidly as the violence spreads within the rest of Ireland. That anyone stays here, exposed to high danger is amazing to the point of foolishness. The British cause is clearly lost.

The book is interesting for some of the images the author draws that can clearly be applied to the rebellion. I offer a few examples:

"For this was the Major’s first night in Ireland and, like a man struggling to retain his consciousness as he inhales the first fumes of chloroform, he had not yet allowed himself to surrender to the country’s vast and narcotic inertia."

"In Chicago the violence was naked, a direct expression of feeling, not of some remote and dubious patriotic heritage. White men dragged Negroes off streetcars; Negroes fired rifles from housetops."

"Rover had always enjoyed trotting from one room to another, prowling the corridors on this floor or that. But now, whenever he ventured up the stairs to nose around the upper storeys, as likely as not he would be set upon by an implacable horde of cats and chased up and down the corridors to the brink of exhaustion."

The power of the book, in my opinion, rests on the end of the novel, when the rebels finally move against the hotel and the one man who is still there, the Major. The burning of the hotel, not set by the rebels themselves, also seems like an image for the rebellion itself.

"It was from these black windows that flaming, shrieking creatures suddenly began to leap—hundreds of them, seething out of the windows on to the gutters and leaping out into the darkness. Those not already ablaze exploded in mid-air or ignited like flares as they hurtled through the great heat towards the earth."

After that holocaust, the Major's return to England and his recovery from his infatuation with his Irish girlfriend is quite an anti-climax:

"But he was still troubled by thoughts of Sarah. His love for her perched inside him, motionless, like a sick bird. For many weeks he continued to think about her painfully. And then one day, without warning, the bird left its perch inside him and flew away into the outer darkness and he was at peace."
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on October 7, 2015
Many reviews already written of this fine novel set during the time of "The Troubles" in Ireland. Events play out at the Majestic Hotel owned by the delightfully eccentric Spencer family. Major Brendan Archer a casualty of the Great War finds himself unwittingly involved in the inhabitants of the Majestic and it's guests.

I found this initially a difficult book to get into but have to admit that the plot and characters did grow on me and I ended up thoroughly enjoying it. There are pockets of humor interspersed with the pathos. A gently moving novel that does have an impact long after completing. I enjoyed the style and delivery. Well worth the read.
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on September 2, 2011
If I hadn't known who'd written this book , I would have been sure the author was Henry Green. I defy anyone who's read LOVING to deny it. It's not just the setting in an Irish great house of sorts, it's the emotional tone, bemused , thwarted , aching. This is a painful and funny book.

Since I'm writing in the context of a number of other reviews, I don't see much need to recapitulate the plot and truth to tell , there isn't much of a plot.It does ramble on for too long but Farell created some brilliant emotional portraits here.The main character the Major ,is masterfully drawn. An utterly conventional , conservative and priggish man of middling intelligence, he's been just slightly unhinged by a few years in the trenches.It's not that he's turned bohemian or radical ,it's that he really has changed as a result of experience.By the way that's less common than most people think.Fresh out of university, the major might have sympathized with his rival - antagonist Edwards' blustering jingoism.But by the time he gets to Ireland he's reached the point where he finds that kind of thing rather ridiculous.He's an essentially likable, decent man who would be a total bore without his war experience which has made him into a better man than he at times realizes .Granted he could benefit from a little more drive.The Major has the good fortune to be an outsider in a society that is at long last collapsing , the world of the Anglo -Irish.Superficially he sympathizes with them , yet at the same time, he suspects they deserve their fate.

Until fairly recently , I'd never heard of Farell. I'm glad I've made his acquaintance.
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on August 31, 2011
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.
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