Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Gathering by Anne Enright

As regular readers of my blog already know, I read fairly widely and ecclectically. But, my default position is historical stuff (fiction, non-fiction, bio) and I do love a good character piece.

I love getting under their skin; I love walking around in their shoes. I don't necessarily have to like them, but I do have to care enough to want to know what will happen to them.

I also love it when authors use great words or create a beautifully turned phrase. I love it when authors use local dialogue that lets me into their world. I love it when they spin a good yarn. I love it when an author makes me believe; I also love it when they ask me to suspend belief.

I love books that delve into the deep, dark recesses of our minds, hearts and souls. I love being taken on an interior journey, where to understand the character and/or the author, I also have to check into my own beliefs, opinions & feelings. I love exploring truth, lies and memories.

I got all of this and more, during my reading of The Gathering.

This is not a happy story with lots of external action and feel-good moments, but it is funny & sarcastic in a very Irish kind of way.

"I realised, too, that I was not in love with him, but condemned instead to a lifetime of such false intensities, 
that I would have to love each man I slept with in order not to hate myself."

The Gathering is about grief, the peculiar dysfunction within large families and memory.

Watching Veronica struggle with her grief is painful. Watching her circle the family stories of what really happened and what didn't, is frustrating. Watching this large, sprawling, Irish family gather together to mourn is heart-breaking as they bump up against each other, bruise from old wounds, create new ones & struggle to support & care for each other.

The Hegarty's remind me of Tolstoy's great opening line in Anna Karenina, "all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

The Gathering was the winner of the 2007 Booker Prize.

4 comments:

  1. I embarked on a Booker pilgrimage in 1999, it's been sadly neglected for some years now. Perhaps when I finish my 1001 I'll get back to it. I do often find Irish books too dreadfully depressing.

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    1. Although far from Irish or Catholic, I did grow up in a large family - the often unkind sibling humour in this book was therefore very familiar and even funny! The depressing part was also very familiar...but gratefully, from a distance, viewed as an "I remember when - thank god that's not me any longer" frame of mind. Maybe that's why I didn't find it too depressing, because I had faith that Veronica would come out okay on the other side, eventually.

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  2. Love this simple and beautiful review! Thanks! I like that cover.

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