Friday, May 21, 2010

Found: JG Farrell a worthy winner for the Lost Booker
Troubles, the first book in Liverpool-born author's Empire trilogy, triumphs in readers' vote
Alison Flood ,, Wednesday 19 May 2010

Troubles is the first in JG Farrell’s (above) trilogy on the British empire, which also includes The Siege of Krishnapur and The Singapore Grip. Photograph: Jane Bown

Winning the Booker prize almost 40 years ago for The Siege of Krishnapur, JG Farrell used his acceptance speech to denounce capitalism, specifically in the form of the prize's sugar-trade sponsors. The late author would no doubt have been delighted to be given a similar platform today after his novel Troubles was chosen by the reading public as winner of the Lost Booker award.

The story of an army major who travels to a decaying Irish hotel in 1919 to meet his rashly acquired fiancee, Troubles was one of six novels published in 1970 to be shortlisted for the Lost Booker, intended to reward books that were ineligible when they were published, thanks to a shift in the fledgling prize's schedule that year, which resulted in the exclusion of almost 12 months' worth of novels from consideration.
More than 4,000 readers worldwide cast votes for their favourite shortlisted novel, with Troubles taking 38% of the vote, more than double that of other contenders by Muriel Spark, Nina Bawden, Shirley Hazzard, Mary Renault and Patrick White.

"I'm not at all surprised readers voted for Farrell – he's a very worthy winner," said ITN newsreader Katie Derham, who selected the shortlist with poet and novelist Tobias Hill and Observer journalist Rachel Cooke. "He thrusts, chucks, throws you immediately into his world … Because he has this lightness of touch, as well as being bizarre and weird and dark, you get swept up in it. The three of us adored the book."

Set in the Majestic hotel in fictional Kilnalough, County Wexford, Troubles sees Major Brendan Archer travelling to meet Angela, the fiancee he had acquired during an afternoon's leave. The engagement proves shortlived but the major remains in the hotel, hypnotised by its faded charms and ancient inhabitants, as the Irish war of independence is about to begin.

Alison Flood's full piece here.

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