Friday, July 16, 2010

Troubles

This blog had the opportunity to read J. G. Farrell's Booker-Prize winning novel, The Siege of Krishnapur, and the overall opinion was favorable. Now that Farrell has posthumously won the coveted Lost Booker Prize, I went to the trouble of tracking down a copy of the novel in question. Ha ha ha. Here's my review. 


Major Brendan Archer has been discharged from the military after the Great War, and has found himself engaged to a girl he doesn't really know, living in a grand hotel in Ireland, and when he arrives, he's astonished to find the hotel falling apart, with the owners and guests doing likewise.

Troubles is a rather disjointed novel, not quite as funny as Siege, and not quite as cutting either. The satirical elements aren't biting enough, and the elegiac parts not quite sentimental enough. Farrell is aiming for a very stern position on the ignorance of the British Empire, and he sort of hits the mark, but not strong enough.

Part of what makes this almost great but not quite novel is that it's far too long. Troubles could have been halved, and it would have worked so much better. Often, I felt a scene could have been trimmed or excised entirely, while still getting the point across.

The absolute highlight of the novel comes at the end, when the owner of the hotel decides to throw one last grand ball, and the insane situations that come from it are masterfully hilarious, and pace breathless. It's a fantastic sequence, and one of the best party scenes in a novel that I've ever read.

Just like in Siege, Farrell's prose is crisp and clear, his sense of description excellent, and his dialogue true enough. If I hadn't been so impressed with Siege, I would have called Farrell an acceptable and satisfactory storyteller, rather than a true artistic genius that some critics are calling him.

In spite of these criticisms, I still had an overall enjoyable time reading Troubles. I thought it was funny and pointed, even if it didn't reach paroxysms of hilarity or biting satire. Farrell was an impressive storyteller, and I will continue to read his novels, despite the slight disappointment with this novel. The last available novel by him that I can get my hands on is The Singapore Grip, the finale of his so-called Empire Trilogy.

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