J.G. Farrell's Troubles is quite the book! Drama, black comedy, pathos, farce - all are played out in the labyrinthine corridors and endless rooms of the Majestic Hotel in rural Ireland around 1920, as political unrest and violence increase and threaten the residents of this eccentric establishment.
The book's characters are dwarfed by the vast edifice within which they live, though they and it combined make for a sort of grandly gothic Fawlty Towers with a touch of Gormenghast thrown in. For me, the hotel was the star - never mind the ineffectual and increasingly distracted owner Edward Spencer, nor the Major who somehow cannot bring himself to leave the place - no, it's the cats in the Imperial Bar, the impenetrable foliage and "ambitious plants" of the Palm Court, the "Do More" generator which could hardly do less, the proliferation of old ladies and even older, more crumbly retainers, the piglets in the squash court, the dogs with their daube de mouton, the insidious decay and deterioration, the immensity of the place, all that is what is done so well and it's that which makes the book so memorable.
I was interested in how J.G. Farrell constructs the story and therefore how it reads, e.g. the lack of chapters (there is just the occasional brief newspaper report to break up the narrative) means it's all of a piece and there are times when it feels not like hard going exactly, but more a lengthy trudge through a featureless bog! Progress - the story's and the reader's - seems slow. But then there are subtle shifts of pace and purpose and things begin to hot up in more ways than one until you reach the climax which, I think, is superb.
How about you? Did you make it to the blistering finish, or did you pack your bags and take your leave of the Majestic somewhere along the way?
(Later: The Troubles cake is here).