Friday, February 03, 2012

Friday Reading Assignment: Troubles

The thing about J.G. Farrell is that he can write about a deadly serious topic and make it funny.  I've loved everything I've ever read by J.G. Farrell, and Troubles is no exception.  Set in Ireland, immediately after World War I, it's about an eccentric family who own a grand hotel, the Majestic, on the seashore.  The main character, always referred to as "the Major" although his name is Brendan, arrives at the Majestic after recovering from "shell shock" in a British hospital.  He's engaged to Angela Spencer, of the family that owns the Majestic, or at least he thinks he is.  He doesn't recall proposing, but they kissed once at a party during the war and she signs her letters to him, "your fiancee," so he supposes he must be engaged and thus arrives at the Majestic in the summer of 1919 to claim his bride.  Things don't go as planned but the Major remains at the hotel, becoming deeply involved in the family's life, while Ireland is caught in a violent struggle for independence from Britain.

This  novel is deeply, achingly tragic, but it's so funny you're hardly aware of the fact until after you've finished it.  This is Farrell's gift.  He even manages to make a near-date rape seem comical and the appalling violence at the end has an absurd element to it.  Unfortunately, J. G. Farrell died at the age of 44--swept out to sea by a wave when fishing from the shore--and we are deprived of whatever else he might have written.

Image from BBC News


  1. Those Brits, their gift for humor is so profound.

  2. This looks good. Thanks for recommending it.

  3. excellent recommendation.....and what a way to go!!

  4. For a moment there I got confused and thought you were recommending J. G. Ballard, aka "Mr. Car Crash Porn." This book sounds much more palatable!