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Troubles (Empire Trilogy #1)

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,429 Ratings  ·  299 Reviews
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 ho
Paperback, 459 pages
Published October 31st 2002 by NYRB Classics (first published 1970)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 04, 2015 Ted rated it it was amazing
… How should this man proceed? Bail … row … or both?
“Can he make it?”
“Afraid not quite, old chap,” replied Mr Norton with unexpected clarity.
“Ah,” said the Major absently.

J. G. Farrell’s Troubles was awarded the so-called “Lost Man Booker” in 2010. (view spoiler)
Paul Bryant
May 03, 2015 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels

A light, mordantly mournful comedy of Anglo-Irish manners lazily dawdling from 1919 to 1921 at the pace of an ancient laden donkey featuring a tepid, sad non-romance of pallid mooning and more annoying old ladies than you can shake a zimmer frame at may not sound like your version of a good time. It didn’t sound like mine. I had it in mind to read the first 100 pages and sling it. Just to get it off my shelf. Because really, it’s nearly 500 pages and it has no plot, if by plot you refer to somet
Fawlty Towers meets The Shadow of a Gunman

Recently 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
Oct 13, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it
"Troubles" is the story of Ireland 1919 to 1921, the Irish and the Anglo-Irish and the British, and how they ultimately can't all live together under the terms of the past. It is seen through the eyes of a shell-shocked British veteran, the Major, come to the Majestic Hotel in County Wexford to disabuse a young woman of the notion they may be affianced. He doesn't recall more than polite conversations during leave.

From there the alternately comic and tragic story moves with the "troubles" that b
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 hum
May 13, 2014 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lawrence Windrush
Aug 12, 2012 Lawrence Windrush rated it it was amazing

This is my first review and what better way to start than James Farrells Troubles.
I was lucky to come across a 1970 first edition of this in a charity shop for a few pounds, it's worth more than 400 now.

It's one of the most original novels I have ever read. It's very elusive and subtle, at first it's a humorous social political historical novel but then it morphs into something completely darker and surreal. It charts Major Brendon Archer's supposed engagement to Angela Spencer, the daughter of
I know that in order to attempt to appear intelligent I should pretend to love this book but I din't. It was well written, well researched, and an important topic. In my opinion it was so heavy laden with symbolism that the people seemed stilted. At about 500 pages it seemed over long especially considering how horribly sad the characters and circumstances were though I suppose it was true to life at that time.
Three and a half stars, really.
Came to this, and its title, thinking that it would be a lot more political than it is. That the era(s) of conflict in Ireland, now euphemized by all parties as 'The Troubles'-- pointed toward that direction. Fact is, what we have is a nearly sentimental account of the characters and atmosphere in a very select little locale that happens to find itself in the south of Ireland on the seacoast. During the expansion of the Troubles in the early twenties.

What author
Douglas Dalrymple
Nov 29, 2010 Douglas Dalrymple rated it really liked it
Thoroughly satisfying. Better, I’m tempted to say, than The Siege of Krishnapur, but that’s a hard call to make. Farrell’s strengths are well represented: wonderfully appealing characters, flawless and delightful prose, the crisp drawing of comic scenarios and violent eruptions. It has a few awkward points. One – possibly – is the treatment of the Major’s waffling loyalties. His apparent fickle-mindedness towards the ‘Shinner’ and Unionist causes is appropriate for his character and situation, b ...more
Justin Evans
Mar 20, 2012 Justin Evans rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This took a long time to get going- the first third or so lacks much direction, and the direction it has is disappointingly heavy handed: so there's this hotel in Ireland? During the troubles? And it's owned by Anglo-Irish Unionists? And the hotel's falling apart. Um... subtle. Also, flabby.
But once the characters are set and the background's been filled in, it becomes quite enjoyable, and even the symbolism is palatable. The NYRB cover is very misleading, though- like Bowen's 'The Last Septemb
Phillip Edwards
I expected to find Troubles hard-going, after all it is an old historical novel and they bore me, but it wore down my defences by being relentlessly amusing. A wry depiction of the bizarre lifestyle of the eccentric residents of a disintegrating hotel in a disintegrating corner of a disintegrating empire, there are echoes of both Cold Comfort Farm and Catch-22, and if you are looking for a missing link between Gormenghast and Fawlty Towers then this is it. Felinophiles be warned though: some cat ...more
Jun 21, 2010 Elaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
Funny, tragic, occasionally dragging yes, but thoroughly absorbing as if a grand old novel had been salted with a good dose of modern comic timing. Reading the second in the trilogy now, and it is tighter and better still. Will be sad when this done
Elizabeth (Alaska)
My first thought in opening this book was "why do so many characters in novels have the surname Archer?" Here is Brendan Archer, and then there is Newland Archer in Wharton's The Age of Innocence and Isabel Archer in James' The Portrait of a Lady. Those are the ones that come immediately to mind, and I am beginning to suspect I'm only scratching the surface.

This was my first look at the Irish "troubles" of 1919. The desire of the Irish to govern themselves had been a thorn in English politics fo
Aug 05, 2010 Denerick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Jun 20, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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 th
Dec 10, 2013 Allan rated it it was amazing
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,
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 Joyce Lagow rated it it was amazing
As in The Siege of Krishanpur, Farrell, in this book set against the increasing violence against the English in the Irish struggle for independence, created, in his characters, parodies of the English ruling class, holding them up to ridicule rather than sympathy for being caught up in a tragedy. In Farrell s view, clearly the English have caused their own tragedy; he spotlights a (fictional) group of English people living at the deteriorating Majestic Hotel in County Wexford, Ireland as a way o ...more
May 22, 2014 Merilee rated it it was amazing
I'm sorry that I waited 6 years to read this wonderful Farrell book after discovering his Siege of Krishnapur in 2008. This one won the Lost Booker in 1970 (Krishnapur won the regular Booker in ??) As The Guardian puts it: "A tour de force…sad, tragic, also very funny."
Vit Babenco
Oct 18, 2014 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
“Not far away the two massive, weatherworn gateposts of the Majestic rose out of the impenetrable foliage that lined the sea side of the road. As they passed between them (the gates themselves had vanished, leaving only the skeletons of the enormous iron hinges that had once held them) the Major took a closer look: each one was surmounted by a great stone ball on which a rain-polished stone crown was perched slightly askew, lending the gateposts a drunken, ridiculous air, like solemn men in pape ...more
Caleb Guillotte
Apr 24, 2008 Caleb Guillotte rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the best book I've ever read. Hilarious, bleak, surreal and so very real, this absurd look at the crumbling British empire through the eyes of a shell-shocked upper class twit at a once glorious hotel (the Majestic" in Ireland on the eve of the "Troubles" was impossible to put down. Anyone who loves literature will love this book.
Apr 18, 2014 Drew rated it really liked it
"...And everyone would climb the stairs chuckling to their rooms and dream of aces and knaves and a supply of trumps that would last for ever and ever, one trump after another, an invincible superiority subject to neither change nor decay nor old age, for a trump will always be a trump, come what may."

Fitting words to describe the attitude of the Anglo-Irish characters in this book, who hang onto their decrepit Majestic in hopes of riding out the titular troubles. The hotel falls apart at the sa
Jul 30, 2010 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of friends whose reading has consisted of too many country house novels I have been critical in the past: why, I am prone to insist, are 90% of books set in such surrounds when real people frequent Happy Eaters, Superdrug and branches of Dixon’s?

In the case of Troubles, however, I am willing to suspend my attacks, for this is a wondrous lost gem, rightly revived a couple of years ago and brought to the attention of a whole new squadron of readers. True, the edifice in question is a hotel rather
Feb 24, 2016 Val rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookers, byt-main
1970 'Lost Booker'

I think everyone should read everything J G Farrell wrote and only regret that he didn't have time to write more. They should certainly read his trilogy of books depicting the dismantling of the British Empire.
The Siege Of Krishnapur
The Singapore Grip
(I read all three in the 1990's not the 1970's, but don't remember the correct dates.)

Farrell's books have their settings at pivotal moments in the history of empire, but he is more concerned with the dismantling of the ide
Kate Vane
Mar 11, 2013 Kate Vane rated it it was amazing
Troubles is part of JG Farrell’s Empire Trilogy. It tells the story of a major after the First World War who becomes engaged by mistake to a woman from Ireland. He visits her at the hotel which is run by her family, where he is soon released from his obligation, but somehow he stays.

The hotel is gradually going to ruin but the staff and guests carry on, apparently oblivious, living hypnotically uneventful lives in the decaying remnants of colonial splendour. Meanwhile, outside, the world is chan
Victoria Young
JG Farrell's Troubles is definitely one of the most unsual books I've read. In short, it follows the misadventures of ex-WWI-serviceman Major Archer who is inadvertently drawn into the eccentric lives of the inhabitants of the formerly grand, but now decrepit, Majestic Hotel in Kilnalough, Ireland in 1920.

At first blush this novel comes across as an imaginative, nutty portrayal of the British ruling gentry in Ireland as they slide into irrelevance and decay, intransigently refusing to acknowled
May 12, 2007 Preeta rated it it was amazing
I haven't read the other two books (The Singapore Grip and The Siege of Krishnapur) in Farrell's trilogy, but I've been meaning to for years. This book is magnificent in its evocation of Decline. On the deepest level, it's about the decline of the British Empire; every aspect of the novel reflects that theme, from the protagonist's anomie to the setting -- a once-grand, now derelict hotel "boiling with cats." I love love love that phrase, and it's definitely representative of Farrell's delicious ...more
Feb 25, 2015 Jarvo rated it really liked it
Everything I turn now seems to lead back to the British Empire (ok maybe not a surprise if I choose to read the first book in an 'Empire' trilogy). J.G. Farrell is the great lost name of post-war British fiction. Born in Liverpool but Irish by ancestry and inclination, his writings can almost be categorised as 'proto post Colonial'. 'Troubles' was awarded a posthumous Booker prize (posthumous because the author was dead and there wasn't a prize given that year so the award was retrospective). It ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Ronnie rated it really liked it
JG Farrell’s Troubles is the third Man Booker Prize winner, although technically, it was only awarded in 2010, as the Lost Man Booker Prize.

"It may be four decades overdue, but at least JG Farrell’s Lost Booker triumph will bring his work of genius to the wider audience it deserves." - Guardian, May 2010

“Work of genius” can be overused, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone claiming that Farrell's debut novel falls into this category. It has the feeling of a classic; a darkly comic classic that I’m s
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Goodreads Ireland: Spoiler Thread: Troubles 16 25 Feb 07, 2014 04:00AM  
Goodreads Ireland: Novembver-January Quarterly Irish Read 2013: Troubles 73 38 Jan 07, 2014 01:09AM  
NYRB Classics: Troubles, by J.G. Farrell 1 6 Oct 30, 2013 09:03PM  
Poe? 5 23 Aug 27, 2012 12:50PM  
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James Gordon Farrell, known as J.G. Farrell, was a Liverpool-born novelist of Irish descent. Farrell gained prominence for his historical fiction, most notably his Empire Trilogy (Troubles, The Siege of Krishnapur and The Singapore Grip), dealing with the political and human consequences of British colonial rule. The Siege of Krishnapur won the 1973 Booker Prize. On 19 May 2010 it was announced th ...more
More about J.G. Farrell...

Other Books in the Series

Empire Trilogy (4 books)
  • The Siege of Krishnapur (Empire Trilogy, #2)
  • The Singapore Grip
  • The Empire Trilogy: The Siege of Krishnapur, Troubles, and The Singapore Grip

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“Surely there’s no need to abandon one’s reason simply because one is in Ireland.” 1 likes
“And everyone would climb the stairs chuckling to their rooms and dream of aces and knaves and a supply of trumps that would last for ever and ever, one trump after another, an invincible superiority subject to neither change nor decay nor old age, for a trump will always be a trump, come what may.” 0 likes
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