Troubles and Tangerine and Poppy Seed Scones

“Nothing is invulnerable to growth, change and decay, not even one’s most fiercely guarded memories.” – Troubles

I received J. G. Farrell’s Troubles as a birthday gift. It was published in the early 1970s and is the first in Farrell’s most well-known trilogy which also includesThe Siege of Krishnapur and The Singapore GripTroubles is set during the Irish War of Independence, a conflict that occurred between 1919 and 1921.

The book is centred around the character of Major Brendan Archer, a British World War One veteran who is betrothed to the daughter of an Anglo-Irish gentleman. The latter owns a large hotel in the Irish countryside. Though the Major cannot quite remember how he came to be engaged to Angela Spencer, he becomes fixated with the lives of the hotel’s guests and cannot seem to stay away from its increasingly dilapidated grounds after he first visits it.

Farrell is an expert storyteller and manages to keep the reader engaged and on tenterhooks throughout the 450 pages or so of narrative. He records a crucial moment in Irish history: the destruction of one power structure as it is superseded by another. Troubles is punctuated by a plethora of hilariously described characters. The old ladies that are eternal guests at the hotel, the cats that prowl the upper stories and the sinister manservant, Murphy, being just a handful. If Farrell hadn’t died unexpectedly at the age of 44 he would certainly have provided the literary world with other important works.

I read much of Troubles in the spring. The Irish skies were blustery and varied. I ate many scones. Particular favourites were a tangerine and poppy seed variety created by Yossy Arefi who is both an exciting cook and talented photographer.


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