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Author J. G. Farrell
Country England
Language English
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Publication date 1970
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 446
Followed by The Siege of Krishnapur

Troubles is a 1970 novel by the English author J.G. Farrell, it won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. It is the first installment in his acclaimed 'Empire Trilogy', preceding The Siege of Krishnapur and The Singapore Grip. Although there are similar themes within the three novels (most notably that of the British Empire), they do not form a sequence of storytelling. 'Troubles' concerns the dilapidation of a once grand Irish hotel (the Majestic), running alongside political upheaval during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921).

Plot summary

The novel concerns the arrival of Englishman Major Brendan Archer, recently discharged from the British Army, at the Majestic Hotel on the Wexford coast in south-east Ireland in 1919. Archer is convinced he is engaged, though sure he had never actually proposed, to Angela Spencer, the daughter of Edward Spencer, the elderly owner of the Majestic Hotel. She has written to him since they met in 1916 while on leave from the trench warfare of the Western Front. The Spencers are an Anglo-Irish Protestant family, strongly Unionist in their attitudes towards Ireland's ties to the UK. Archer functions as a confused observer of the disfunctional Spencer family, representing the Anglo-Irish, and the local Catholic population. As the novel progresses social and ecoonomic relationships break down, mirrored by the gentle decay of the hotel.

Characters in Troubles

  • Major Brendan Archer – ex Army Officer and fiancee of Angela Spencer. Archer also appears in Farrell's later novel The Singapore Grip.
  • Edward Spencer – owner of the Majestic hotel, his mental decline echoes the physical decline of the hotel itself and also the increased violence taking place across Ireland.
  • Angela Spencer – daughter of Edward Spencer.
  • Sarah Devlin – a girl the Major meets early on in the novel, and after Angela's death becomes increasingly obsessed with. Apparently disabled in the early parts of the novel.
  • Charity and Faith – young girls at the start of the novel, they develop into young women as the story progresses. Often depicted as coy and naive.

Other characters include:

  • The old ladies staying at the hotel.
  • Various servants of the hotel including Sean Murphy, a somewhat suspect groundsman.
  • The inhabitants of Kilnalough, the village near to the hotel, including Sarah's father, a doctor, a priest and others.

Analysis of Troubles

Farrell develops the insulated environment of the run-down hotel as a reflection on the attitudes of the historically privileged Anglo-Irish, in denial of the violent insurgency of the overwhelming majority (Nationalists/Republicans).

While the Irish War of Independence forms the background to the events of the novel, the political upheaval is not treated as a theme. Apart from occasional news reports concerning the war, the only references to it are chance remarks from the novel's characters. The novel's action takes place mostly within the hotel, with the remainder of the scenes taking place almost entirely in the surrounding areas. As a result, the only characters given a major airing are the Major and the Spencer family, which adds to the claustrophobic, unreal mood of the novel.



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