Poor Major Brendan Archer has survived the Great War and sets off to Ireland to visit his mysterious fiancée, Angela, at the Majestic, the hotel owned by her family. Although he was sure that he had never actually proposed to Angela during the few days of their acquaintance, it was beyond doubt that they were engaged: a certainty fostered by the fact that from the very beginning, she had signed her letters "Your fiancée, Angela". This had surprised him at first. But, with the odour of death drifting into the dug-out, it would have been trivial and discourteous behind words to split hairs about such purely social distinctions.
He finds his blushing bride remarkably blasé at his arrival and he decides to end the engagement and head back to England. Except he can't manage to leave the crumbling Majestic, even when it becomes obvious the marriage won't take place. He ends up in a strange friendship with Angela's eccentric father, Edward; comforting and entertaining the group of elderly ladies who have taken permanent residence; reining in Angela's wild twin sisters, Faith and Charity (who are amazing); and becoming a sensible caretaker of sorts for the hotel. Meanwhile, there is significant unrest between the Catholic nationalists and the occupying British, leading to increasing violence in the area. Troubles
is very funny but also quite tragic. Major Archer manages to sort out the various troubles (!) of the residents and hotel because he's the only sensible person around, but he is often seized by ennui and despair of the futility of it all. He listens with cold and indifferent skepticism as people argue over Ireland's independence. He is tortured by an unrequited love affair that is mostly comprised of chaste walks and meaningful silences (my all time fave!). He is worn down by the war and the current state of the world but musters all that is best about being English and just plows through. He's pretty much the best. But it's not a total downer! Even when things are falling apart completely, the book is very funny. Really, actually laughed aloud, funny. And Major Archer is still young enough to be (for the most part) optimistic and hopeful.
I really loved Brendan and felt so sorry for him for most of the novel. I really hated Sarah for breaking his poor heart (but I didn't really hate Sarah because the poor girl just wanted to get out of that wretched place). In my dream ending, Brendan heads back to England and ends up marrying Charity. Faith can marry Mortimer and the four have awesome and fun times in London.
So overall, I loved it and am excited to move on to the next book in the Empire trilogy!