The Gathering, by Anne Enright
In The Gathering (winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2007), Anne Enright tells the story of a bitter and bruised family in bitter and bruised prose. I was sucked in for the ride – even though I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to go.
Veronica Hagerty narrates the story about her Irish Catholic family of twelve children. She is particularly concerned with a disturbing event that occurred one summer when she and two of her siblings, Liam and Kitty, are sent to live with their grandmother. Liam never quite recovers from the events of that summer and some thirty years later has killed himself. Veronica, whose life is picture perfect on the outside, is deeply troubled on the inside. The novel is a sort of journey (though not quite a linear one) through Veronica’s imbittered and coarse memories straight on to dealing with the now of Liam’s death, wake, and funeral.
Despite the subject matter, I found the writing enjoyable. No, more than enjoyable, compelling. Ravenous Reader summed it up: “depressing, but compulsively readable.” I loved the insight into the Irish Catholic world. I was most intrigued by the character of the mother who had born twelve children and miscarried seven and who was so detached from life that she couldn’t remember Veronica’s name. I felt, overall, that the difficult subject matter of abuse was handled realistically but respectfully. Also, the ending, I thought, was pulled off particularly well. (See, there, I commented on the ending without spoilers. Go team.) Anne Enright has a gift, and I will be picking up something on her backlist in the near future.
The Gathering, by Anne Enright [rating:4]