Major Brendan travels to Ireland—to the Majestic Hotel and to the fiancee he acquired on a rash afternoon’s leave three years ago. Despite her many letters, the lady herself proves elusive, and the Major’s engagement is short-lived. But he is unable to detach himself from the alluring discomforts of the crumbling hotel. Ensconced in the dim and shabby splendour of the Palm Court, surrounded by gently decaying 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 1919—and the struggle for independence is about to explode with brutal force.
Brought to mind by the recent and long overdue celebration of Farrell's life and works, and the recollection of his evocative opening paragraphs as they describe tumbled cast-iron baths, twisted bed frames and 'a prodigious number of basins and lavatory bowls' lying in the ruins of a fire-gutted Irish hotel. And dotted here and there are 'a large number of tiny white skeletons' - eventually revealed to be bones of the hordes of cats that infested the Imperial Hotel in its final, delapidated decline. Farrell wrote the book when he was 35. Literary success meant that he could afford to move to a residence-of-choice, and he selected to live in West Cork - not far from my home - which, for me, shows he had a sympathetic geographical sense as well as marvellous gifts as an author. Review by Tim Severin, whose books include 'In Search of Moby Dick: Quest for the White Whale' (Kirkus UK)
Number Of Pages: 480
Published: 3rd January 1998
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 12.9 x 2.9
Weight (kg): 0.36