Review: Troubles – J.G Farrell (1970 winner)

I’m not sure why but I wasn’t looking forward to starting this book, possibly because I had really enjoyed the last prize winner I read (Atwood) and the pessimist in me thought it could only go downhill from here! But it also could be because I’ve felt the books I’ve read from the list so far have been quite hit and miss. But to quell any concerns early on – I really enjoyed this novel, and as a result I’m looking forward to reading Farrell’s other novel on the winners list (The Siege of Krishnapur)

This book doesn’t always appear on the lists of booker prizes winners of you randomly search for it on the internet, because it won the ‘lost’ man booker prize retrospectively for 1970.

Troubles focuses on the life of ‘the Major’ a British WW1 veteran, who has recently returned from the war and has gone to find his fiancée he met very briefly before the war. Whilst the Major doesn’t recall ever proposing to her, she faithfully signs her letters ‘your loving fiancée’ – so he decides that she must be his fiancée!
The story is set in the rapidly decaying but still grand ‘Majestic Hotel’ against a backdrop of the developing Irish war and the irrational behaviour that follows…

“Surely there’s no need to abandon one’s reason simply because one is in Ireland.”

The book goes from scenes of the utterly bizarre, to comedy and to tragic stories of mindless killings so commonly reported in war time. The title ‘troubles’ is fitting with both the timing of the when the book is set, the international scenes Farrell links to and also to many areas and situations of conflict in the news today.

So although Farrell’s book was published in 1970 it still works, and it resonates to a reader almost half a century on.

Format read on: Kindle


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