The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan gather in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother Liam. It wasn't the drink that killed him - although that certainly helped - it was what happened to him as a boy in his grandmother's house, in the winter of 1968. His sister Veronica was there then, as she is now: keeping the dead man company, just for another little while. The Gathering is a family epic, condensed and clarified through the remarkable lens of Anne Enright's unblinking eye. It is also a sexual history: ...
The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan gather in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother Liam. It wasn't the drink that killed him - although that certainly helped - it was what happened to him as a boy in his grandmother's house, in the winter of 1968. His sister Veronica was there then, as she is now: keeping the dead man company, just for another little while. The Gathering is a family epic, condensed and clarified through the remarkable lens of Anne Enright's unblinking eye. It is also a sexual history: tracing the line of hurt and redemption through three generations - starting with the grandmother, Ada Merriman - showing how memories warp and family secrets fester. This is a novel about love and disappointment, about thwarted lust and limitless desire, and how our fate is written in the body, not in the stars. The Gathering sends fresh blood through the Irish literary tradition, combining the lyricism of the old with the shock of the new. As in all Anne Enright's work, fiction and non-fiction, this is a book of daring, wit and insight: her distinctive intelligence twisting the world a fraction, and giving it back to us in a new and unforgettable light.
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Fair. The item is very worn but continues to work perfectly. Signs of wear can include aesthetic issues such as scratches, dents and worn corners. All pages and the cover are intact, but the dust cover may be missing. Pages may include moderate to heavy amount of notes and highlighting, but the text is not obscured or unreadable. May NOT include discs, access code or other supplemental materials.
Anne Enright's novel "The Gathering" explores issues of family, love, loss, in the voice of a 38 year old woman, Veronica, reflecting upon the suicide of her brother Liam in a large, modern Irish family. The book is told in a stream of consciousness style as Veronica, while responding to her brother's death and handling the details of retrieving his body from England, reflects upon her life and her family. Some of her recollections, as Veronica admits in the first sentence of the book, may not be accurate as they are covered over by memory and self-interest. Veronica is thus something of an unreliable narrator, and Enright, the author, remains in the background without explicit comment.
This is a difficult book. The various online reviews are thoughtful and perceptive, from those which rated the book a 5 to those which rated the book a 1. I learned something from many of the reviewers whose perspective on the book differs from mine. I came away from my reading mostly disliking the book, and the views of many of my fellow reviewers confirmed my response.
"The Gathering" has many poetical moments and beautiful turns of phrase. The narrator, Veronica, appears to make an attempt to be honest with herself. Thus in the story we hear her views about her own life, her large family, parents, grandparents and siblings, and about her husband and children. In particular, we hear a great deal about love, desire, and sex and Veronica's views of their interrelationships. Veronica is bitter and angry. The author presents her character for what she is to allow the reader to try to understand her.
The poetry and the toughness do not save the book. Most of what Veronica says is too bitter and too angry to be interesting or insightful. In fact, a great deal of it is an extreme form of male-bashing which, alas, differs only in degree from much discussion in recent years and which takes no large degree of courage to express. Veronica is obsessed with male sexuality and lust -- with the smell of a man, with the grossest details of a man's body parts, and with a man's sexual activity. She is angry with the way she feels men approach sex and this anger pervades her book far more than does the death of her brother. Her story is told through the fog of time and much of it remains elliptical. But through much of the book, the theme appears to be that women are sullied by male sexuality at least in the form in which most men pursue sex. Their characters and feelings do not meet Veronica's expectations and approval. The story includes long discussions on Veronica's grandmother, Ada, on her questionable early life, and on her relationship with her two suitors. Veronica is also obsessed with the life of her parents -- and on their large family. She attributes the large family and its difficulties to her father wanting too much sex with her mother -- as if, Veronica observes, he had a right to sex. In her own life, Veronica remembers with fondness a Jewish boyfriend from America during her college years. But she feels little for her husband and finds sex with him repellent in frequency, timing, and quality. He had the sex, she observes archly after one of their times together, I did not. Veronica also resents her husband his career success and her own leaving of the work place to raise her children. Too much of this comes off as a screed and to much of it as a rehearsal of what have become commonplaces in some quarters. While I appreciated the attempt of the book to be frank and to speak honestly about one's feelings, I didn't think the book achieved these goals. I came away not caring much about Veronica. And I had too many questions about her responses to her experiences and her insight to find her story compelling.
I was reminded in this book of a recent American novel called, coincidentally enough, "Veronica" by the American writer Mary Gaitskill. This novel, like "The Gathering" is told in a first-person stream of consciousness style. (The narrator is a woman named Allison and the title character is her friend.) Gaitskill's book is also full of tough reflections on sexuality, derived from Allison's life as a stripper and model. But I found Gaitskill's book, in which the sex is much more lurid than anything in "The Gathering," had the personal voice, the immediacy, and the sense of honesty, that Enright's book aims for but for me failed to achieve.
I struggled with "The Gathering" but couldn't bring myself to like or to recommend it.
Mar 29, 2008
Too Much Hype?
I haven't yet read most of the other books shortlisted for the Booker Prize, so I won't make a claim as to whether or not The Gathering deserved it. What I can say is that Enright's style is exquisite, and she perfectly portrays the way old wounds and memories come back to haunt us in times of grief and stress. This book won't be for everyone; it's not exactly a feel-good novel. But if you are looking for a book that provides insight into family dynamics and the workings of the human mind and memory, you might enjoy it.
Oct 4, 2007
fine writing, but just didn't grab me
Well, I really hate to be blunt, but I might as well get this out. Booker prize material? I don't think so. The Gathering is a fine story about a woman trying to cope after the suicide of her brother. She begins to look back in her life and in that of her rather large Irish family to find out why her brother, the two of them only 11 months apart, would have taken turns in life that led to his death.
The writing is quite good, but I seriously couldn't wrap my head around this book; it really failed to grab me as did the other Booker nominees I've read so far.
I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys stories about grief and coping with loss; it is an incredibly bleak kind of novel,though, so if you're looking for a feel-good kind of read, stay away.
I don't know...maybe it's just me but I just couldn't really embrace this novel. Maybe others will enjoy it much more than I did.
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