Troubles, however, is surely his masterpiece: set in the appalling Majestic Hotel in the south-east of Ireland in 1919, the events are largely seen through the eyes of the straight-laced English officer Major Brendan Archer, traumatised during the Great War. Archer ends up in Ireland because he seems to have become engaged, almost accidentally, to the daughter of the hotel's owner. It is the two men's relationship which becomes central. The main character, however, is the hotel itself, a vast crumbling edifice inhabited by elderly ladies and an increasingly aggressive population of cats. Before the latter parts of the book turn to a darker shade, Troubles is relentlessly funny (for instance, in the brilliant whist set-piece). Line after line it is superbly written, and it's a perfect book with which to treat yourself this summer.
Incidentally, Derek Mahon's great poem 'A Disused Shed in County Wexford', frequently studied for the Leaving Certificate, is dedicated to Farrell. Mahon's poem evokes the 'lost people' of history.