Friday, 18 June 2010

Kristin in French, JG Farrell's Troubles, hydrangea

Just finished reading Troubles by JG Farrell (published 1970 and winner of the ‘Lost’ Booker prize)
‘Major Brendan Archer travels to Ireland - to the Majestic Hotel and to the fiancée he acquired on a rash afternoon's leave three years ago. The Major's engagement is short-lived, but, for want of anywhere else to go, he is unable to detach himself from the alluring discomforts of the crumbling hotel. Surrounded by gentile old ladies and proliferating cats, the Major passes the summer. So hypnotic are the faded charms of the Majestic, the Major is almost unaware of the gathering storm. But this is Ireland in 1919 - and the struggle for independence is about to explode with brutal force.’
Actually there’s not as much as I expected about the Troubles, it’s more about the blinkered, narrow world of the Anglo Irish dying of muddled ennui in this dying hotel, (though the author does anchors us with clippings of what’s happening in the rest of the world). I loved so many of the brilliantly written funny descriptions it’s hard to single them out but Farrell is strong on cats and pigs as well as humans. If I have a criticism it is that the Major is an awfully limp sort of main protagonist and you long for him to do something, anything. But maybe he, the hotel and its crazy owner, are deliberately used as symbols of isolated decline. If you’re interested in the period and like comic tragedy, it is worth reading. I can't say how accurate it is historically and I hope readers don't assume all the Anglo Irish of the day were like JG Farrell's Edward Spencer.  To me, the world depicted doesn’t have the immediacy of, say, Molly Keane (MJ Farrell), but then she was writing about people she knew well. By the way, I don't remember her characters being so distant from or anti the locals – whereas many of JG Farrell’s are vile, upper class John-Bull caricatures, like the frightful planters he depicted in The Singapore Grip.  But at least the Major is sympathetic to the plight of the Irish.
I thought The Siege of Krishapur was JGF’s best book (despite the silly memsahibs). Sad he died so young.

'I've loved you so long.' (Il-y-a longtemps que je t'aime) Watched a gritty DVD over the last two nights - too bleak to watch all at once.  Kristin Scott Thomas plays a woman just released after 15 years in prison, a brilliant performance, in French with subtitles.  Here's a good Times review.  I thought the denouement threw up a hole in the plot, but it didn't spoil this moving, totally unsentimental film about the healing power of family affection.

Alexandr Orlov, the meercat, is writing his Simples family history, to be published in time for the Christmas market.  (Non UK residents should know this is a semi-cute advertising character.) Apparently the book will tell how Alexandr's family moved from Africa to Moscow.


Talli Roland said...

Thanks for the reviews, Susie!

Is it wrong that I'm most interested in Alexander's memoirs? I love him!

sablonneuse said...

Well, I must admit to taking an interest in Alexander the meerkat's book as well. It's about the only advert I actually like watching (but it wouldn't persuade me to use the the website even if I lived in the UK).

Debs said...

Thanks for the reviews.

I think I'll definitely have to buy Alexander's memoirs for my son, he loves him.