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 sure I’ll revisit.
Set in and around the hotel Majestic in the town of Kilnalough, Ireland, Troubles doesn’t focus solely on the political upheaval of the time, but the repercussions of World War I, and the Easter Rising of 1916 are key.
The book opens with Major Brendan Foster making his way to Ireland, planning to marry his fiancée. On his arrival, he has to deal with death, marriage, sectarianism, madness, murder, and a seemingly endless number of old ladies, all while the hotel he might have expected to inherit (and much more besides) crumbles around him. In short, his World starts falling apart, acutely mirroring the sanity of those around him, as well as the political state of the country in which this book is set.
Troubles is fantastic, and certainly the best of the three Booker Prize winners I’ve read so far. It’s the first of Farrell’s Empire trilogy, and I’ll be revisiting his work shortly, as number 2 in the series won 1973’s award.