Victoria Young's Reviews > The Gathering

The Gathering by Anne Enright
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's review
May 22, 12

bookshelves: booker-prize, contemporary, families
Read from May 11 to 22, 2012

Enright's novel is not one that I would describe as an 'enjoyable' read, but it is a great read nevertheless. The themes of grief, familial disconnect, death and hidden trauma make the reading experience quite uncomfortable, but compelling. When Liam Hegarty, hopeless messer and alcoholic, wades into the sea with stones in his pockets, his suicide brings back myriad unwelcome memories for his well-to-do sister, Veronica. In the space between the drowning and burial she sifts through three generations of family memory, where fact and imagination blend, in an attempt to discover a reason for her brother's death. Grief also forces Veronica to confront the domestic tensions within her own family- her awkward relationship with her daughters, passive resentment of her husband.

There are many things to appreciate in Enright's considered prose. The first thing I noticed about it is how visceral and corporal Veronica's means of relating to the world is. Characters' histories are told through their bodies, though we hear surprising little about Veronica's own- and it's not a romantic celebration of the human body, it's living slabs of meat, rolling eyeballs and wrinkly scrotums. I also loved that this one of those books that subtly leaves as much unanswered as it resolves. The momentum of the plot comes from the question, what happened to child Liam in 1968 that prompted his death some 30 years later? And if you don't want to look too deeply, or you prefer a tidy ending, Enright does provide an answer- a catalyst event which seemingly preciptates so many Hegarty family disfunctions. But Enright makes skillful use of first person narration subjectivity and the slipperiness of memory to suggest that perhaps the obvious answer isn't a complete or accurate one.

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Reading Progress

05/11/2012 page 8
05/13/2012 page 47
18.0% "Visceral descriptions of grief- 'It is a confusing feeling- somewhere between diarrhoea and sex- this greif that is almost genital.'

Later, p.39: 'I have all my regrets between pouring the wine and reaching for the glass'"
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