The Gathering – Anne Enright


I try to read the Man Booker prize winners – I think it makes me appear vaguely cultured (probably just pretentious). I seem to like about half of them – I hated The Sea (John Banville), but loved Possession (A S Byatt) was indifferent to The Life of Pi (Yann Martel), but enjoyed The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood) you get the picture.

As I had already read Enright’s Making Babies Stumbling into Motherhood, I thought I would read this one.

The gathering in the title is the getting together of the Hegarty clan to mourn the death (a suicide) of Liam. Veronica is our narrator and she is one of 12 children – Liam was her closest sibling.

Before I go any further let me just say this book is grim very grim. Also, there might be spoilers following … 

The Hegarty family are dysfunctional and not just in the ways that all big families are dysfunctional – something nasty happened in the wood shed (or at least in the good front room) to Liam.  It takes almost the entire novel for this dreadful secret to be revealed. Veronica spends quite a bit of time re-imagining her Grand Parents courtship and marriage – and remembering a time when Liam and she (and another sister) stayed with the Grand Mother (was it after another of her mother’s miscarriages – she had 7 – I told you this story was grim). Veronica’s grief is dreadful, she seems to be losing grip of her life – drinking too much, hating her husband and her comfortable middleclass life style.

On a positive note, Enright’s prose is fabulous each sentence is finely crafted and she puts words together in unexpected combinations. For example, “I lay them out in nice sentences, all my clean, white bones” and “… I find she has run through me like water”.

I found this book confronting and not particularly pleasant, but I’m glad I read it.

Here are some more reviews …

The New York Times – Sunday Book Review

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