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The Hill Station Paperback – 5 Jul 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (5 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857990862
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857990867
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 256,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

A classic novel by a Booker Prize-winning author

About the Author

J.G. Farrell was born in Liverpool in 1935 and spent a good deal of his life abroad, including periods in France and North America, and then settled in London where he wrote most of his novels.

Among his novels, TROUBLES won the Faber Memorial Prize in 1970 and the Lost Man Booker prize in 2010 and THE SIEGE OF KRISHNAPUR won the Booker Prize in 1973.

In April 1979 he went to live in County Cork where only four months later he was drowned in a fishing accident.


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As Ibrahim Ali says, it is a great shame that this book was never finished. All of Farrell's mature novels - 'Troubles', 'The Singapore Grip', 'The Siege of Kirshnapur' (which won the Booker Prize in 1973) are distinctive, individual and very enjoyable to read (he had a wit in his writing, sometimes gentle, sometimes caustic, which is very pleasing). There's enough of a book here (151 pages) to make it clear that this was going to be remarkable, and what there is is well worth reading. It's set in the 'hill station' of Simla, about twenty years on from the Indian Rebellion (or Mutiny if you will). Dr. McNab, the wise and long-suffering Scottish doctor of 'Krishnapur', is there with his wife Miriam (also in the earlier book, but in mourning as a recent widow) and a niece, Emily, who is silly, naive or perhaps just as you'd expect a young girl of that class at that time to be. As in 'Krishnapur' there is a 'fallen woman', but in addition Farrell focuses on religious controversy in the Church of England in the person of the brave but physically fragile Rev. Kingston, whose high-church approach has alienated some of his congregation in Simla and made the Bishop uneasy. The book 'ends' with an intensely dramatic scene in his church as he tries to conduct a service against a background of abuse and cat-calling from outside.

There are essays by John Spurling, Margaret Drabble and Malcolm Dean in the book - all helpful - and Farrell's Indian Diary, written while he was in India conducting his researches for his novels, is also there. It casts considerable light on his experience of and attitude to the country, and is also a very good read.

Don't be put off by the fact that this is only half a book (if that). Every word of it is worth reading, and if you like Farrell's work, it's an essential read.
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The Hill Station was first published after Farrell's death at the age of 44, and this volume only serves to underline the loss to literature caused by his premature demise. This book pulls together an unfinished novel, essays by other writers about Farrell, and diary entries about his time in India. It is unclear how much artistic integrity was invested in the project at the outset, but the finished product is quite an effective collection.

The book is split into three sections. The unfinished novel that Farrell was working on at the time of his death is called The Hill Station, and features the return of Dr McNabb from The Siege of Krishnapur. The book details the escape to cooler climates of Victoria Indian society, against a backdrop of increased disenchantment with increasing ritualistic practices within one of the churches. Farrell succeeds in setting up a number of dilemmas that will reveal much more about their characters and it is a shame that we are not able to read what is a highly entertaining draft to its conclusion.

The second portion of the book is comprised of essays by John Spurling and Margaret Drabble. Spurling provides a chronological review of Farrell's career, firmly demonstrating the step change that Farrell achieved in his writing with The Troubles and includes notes for Farrell's intentions on how the Hill Station would end. Drabble provides a much more thematic review of his writing, and both are well written pieces. We are also treated to personal recollections of Farrell by the former Guardian editor Malcolm Dean, which teases out some of J.G.'s contradictions but also fleshes out a portrait of someone who appears to be a highly entertaining dinner host.
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Format: Paperback
If there's one thing Farrell cannot be forgiven for is dying before finishing this book. The book takes up with Dr McNab who is now passing into his twilight years with his wife Miriam, both characters appearing earlier in The Siege of Krishnapur. The book, or perhaps half a book (the novel ending abruptly midway), tells of their time in Simla with their niece Emily who is husband hunting. Within Simla a fierce battle rages, this time it is the forces of Popery and Anglicanism that clash. The good doctor is caught in the middle. Whilst we seem only to be getting into the story when it tragically is left unfinished the humour and the skill Farrell had with words is still visible.
The book also contains some essays on him by friends (where the plot of the book is given) and it also contains Farrell's diary of his time in India.
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This is well worth reading as a Farrell fan. A beautifully written and intriguing beginning to what would I am sure have been a great book. I read it on a kindle and was therefore unaware of how close I was to the end. What is left feels finished rather than a draft but it cuts off mid chapter and acts as a cruel reminder of what was lost in our literary tradition when Farrell died prematurely. The chapters on his work by Margaret Drabble, John Spurling and Malcolm Dean are thoughtful and informative about Farrell's life and his work while the inclusion of his diary while in India researching 'The Siege of Krishnapur' reveals some of the source material for that brilliant novel, as well as insights into traveling in India in the early days of the Hippy trail, while incongruous glimmers of the Raj linger on.
I am not sure I would recommend this to someone who hasn't read (and loved) at least one of Farrell's completed books. I would recommend starting with 'The Siege of Krishnapur' (I know this is out of the order in which they were written) and come back to this late fragment as a convert.
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