Thursday, May 7, 2015

Trouble with Troubles

This is the second of two books with Irish connections that I wanted to read prior to our vacation there later this year.  Now that I have read both, I'm thinking there are probably better ones I could have picked, lol.  Neither particularly make you want to go to Ireland, that's for sure.  I have to say, the edition I have has a goofy cover.  I don't know why but it just hits the wrong note with me.

I guess then maybe its not too surprising that the rest of the book went on to be slightly off key, too.  The first issue was just that it took me a long time to figure out the tone of the book.  It's pure farce, but its slower and more detailed than most.  The setting and the people are all symbols, and don't really act as you would expect.  The second issue is the dark humor.  Now, I love dark humor, but hoo boy, this was DARK.  Imagine Three Men in a Boat with guerrilla warfare, abundant animal cruelty, and near-rapes.  I have to wonder what cats ever did to Farrell.  I'm sure they were symbols for something, too.

But on the whole, this was a timely read.  This book follows a group of Anglo-Irish living in a crumbling hotel in Ireland during the years (1919-1921) that Irish Nationalists were clashing with the ruling British in extremely violent ways that eventually led to Irish independence.  The violence is mostly a backdrop, which becomes illuminated by the attitudes and actions of those in the hotel, those of the British "status quo."

This is perfectly illustrated when the hotel's owner grouses about his exceedingly poor tenants stealing from his field crops.  The protagonist of the book, the Major, then points out that you can't expect people to willingly starve themselves to death to appease the owner's sensibilities.  Of course this falls on deaf ears.

All in all, a lot of the attitudes and actions remind me of current recent events in the U.S., although of course the political context is different.  But a privileged and powerful group not understanding why a disenfranchised and impoverished group might resort to violence, that sounds awfully familiar.

Final call:

Troubles is clever and insightful but still didn't win my heart over.  I certainly wouldn't tell anyone to not read it, though!

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