Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review: "The Gathering" by Anne Enright

Veronica's brother has died, and she's one her way to claim his body and bring him home where their large Irish family will gather together.  It sounds so simple, saying it like that.  But Liam's drowning, his suicide, awakens something in Veronica which conjures memories of their childhood.  In particular, the summer the spent at their grandmother's house comes to mind.  Veronica is left to figure out the true memories from the false, and where to go from there.

I can't remember the synopsis I had read when this was suggested for our library book group, but it sounded good to me.  Throw in the fact that it won the Man Booker Prize in 2007, and I was sold on it.  When it came time to read though, I hated it.  I had to force myself to finish it, and only did so late the night before the book group met.  I was not alone in these thoughts.  the overwhelming majority of the book group did not like the book either.  One thought that maybe she liked it, but she's not sure... she was interested in finding out what happened.  Um, not convincing enough for me.  However, we certainly found plenty to talk about... including finding some things funny when looking back, even if we didn't find it so at the time of reading.

So, why didn't I like it?   I've made my dislike of stream of consciousness style writing pretty well known here.  I'm really not a fan.  While this isn't straight stream of consciousness... there is enough of it that makes things a little confusing.  Also, this is beyond an unreliable narrator - which I usually enjoy.  This narrator is unlikeable, depressed (more than just grieving her brother), and I couldn't trust anything she says or remembers.  She would tell this whole long tale and then say that it didn't really happen like that.  It really put me on edge.  This is a character driven story, but not one character is likeable, or one to root for.  All of it just didn't agree with me.

One question came up in book group, wondering if this story or this style of writing would appeal more to someone from Ireland or England and I really don't know.  I guess that as it won the Booker Prize, I could go with a solid maybe?  But I've read other Irish authors before, and didn't feel this way.  I also wonder if the harsh way the story is told is part of the harsh story itself... if it helps create the atmosphere, but I'm not sure.

She's certainly a talented writer, don't get me wrong.  She really is doing something interesting with her style of writing and her language choices here.  But it just wasn't for me.

The Gathering
by Anne Enright
Black Cat, 2007.
261 pages
Source:  Library


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