Top positive review
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A wonderfully entertaining historical novel
on 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.