Julie Christine's Reviews > The Gathering

The Gathering by Anne Enright
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1213607
's review

really liked it
bookshelves: ireland-theme-setting, contemporary-fiction, read-2015
Recommended to Julie Christine by: Maureen

The Gathering bears witness to a modern Ireland—which at the time of its publication in 2007 was the shiny, bright, roaring Celtic Tiger, an economic miracle—that cannot escape its past. It is told in a looping, troubling first-person by Veronica Hegarty, who lives an aimless existence in a detached five-bedroom home in the Dublin suburbs with her two lovely daughters and financier husband Tom. Veronica and Tom, who “moves money around, electronically. Every time he does this, a tiny bit sticks to him. Day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. Quite a lot of it, in the long run”, are the new Ireland: privileged, polished, distant, secluded.

But Veronica has come to share something of the past, a dark and dirty secret that her brother Liam’s suicide has only now brought to the light of her memory.
I would like to write down what happened in my grandmother’s house the summer I was eight or nine, but I am not sure if it really did happen. I need to bear witness to an uncertain event. I feel it roaring inside me – this thing that may not have taken place. I don’t even know what name to put on it. I think you might call it a crime of the flesh, but the flesh is long fallen away and I am not sure what hurt may linger in the bones.
From this ominous beginning, Veronica meanders back to the time of her grandmother, constructing a narrative that is part family history, part “Dear Diary”—a public confessional in which you can imagine Veronica tearing at the pages with the sharp tip of her pen. Enright presents us with an articulate, reflective narrator, but one of the book’s most brilliant aspects is the instability of Veronica’s testimony – highlighting the unreliability of memory.

Veronica’s clan, the Hegarty’s, is symbolic of the old Ireland Veronica is trying to redeem. She is one of twelve siblings, the daughter of a woman who has virtually lost her mind to the physical and emotional ravages of childbearing and rearing.
My mother had twelve children and— as she told me one hard day–seven miscarriages. The holes in her head are not her fault. Even so, I have never forgiven her any of it. I just can’t.
This tells us so much about the soul of the woman who leads us into her family’s past, the volumes of sorrow and anger and shame that swell in her heart like pages of a book left out in the rain. Perhaps it is her mother’s carelessness, or reverence to a religion which treated women like brood sows that Veronica cannot forgive; but no, as she tells us, “I do not forgive her the sex. The stupidity of so much humping. Open and blind. Consequences, Mammy. Consequences.

The consequences of which Veronica writes were borne not only by her mother but by all her siblings. Some of the Hegarty twelve passed on before Liam: Margaret, recently, of cancer; Stevie, as an angelic little boy; and the nine who remain are scattered, as if seeking roots far from the mother tree. The eponymous ‘Gathering’ is Liam’s wake and funeral, bringing them all back home again. The theme of family is at the broken heart of this novel—how our families shape and betray us—the facts of our emotional inheritances that we can never escape. But the family of Enright’s creation is so wholly Irish, without the superficial sentimentality that we would perhaps rather see, absent of the soft-focus of times past. Enright’s Irish family is flawed and brutal:
There is always a drunk. There is always someone who has been interfered with, as a child. There is always a colossal success, with several houses in various countries to which no one is ever invited. There is a mysterious sister. These are just trends, of course, and, like trends, they shift. Because our families contain everything and, late at night, everything makes sense. We pity our mothers, what they had to put up with in bed or in the kitchen, and we hate them or we worship them, but we always cry for them.

For some readers, The Gathering may have a frustrating lack of action; it is a novel of character and feelings, of reflection and observation. For me, it roared with life. Enright’s prose is sometimes alluring and gentle, sometimes a slap in the face, but it is always original, precise, the fine point of a calligraphy pen that seduces the brain.

Like Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment before her and Jill Alexander Essbaum’s recent Hausfrau, Anne Enright’s The Gathering gives voice to a woman’s anger and shows the inner workings of a mind set loose by tragedy and obsession. It is an unflinching look at sex as a weapon to be wielded and feared. A measure of redemption is offered, for even though Liam’s life was interrupted so unfairly and Veronica must live on in her uncertain world, there is hope in a new life: Liam’s son.

A brilliant novel of Ireland, of family, of memory.

24 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Gathering.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

May 23, 2015 – Started Reading
May 23, 2015 – Shelved
May 24, 2015 –
page 98
37.55% "Huh. I'm still reading..."
May 24, 2015 – Shelved as: read-2015
May 24, 2015 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
May 24, 2015 – Shelved as: ireland-theme-setting
May 24, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Julie Christine A little put off by the many negative reviews, but a friend highly recommended this, so I'm giving it a go!


message 2: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Oh Julie, you make me want to read this with your simply stunning review! You're a storyteller for sure :) Adding this!


Julie Christine Cheryl wrote: "Oh Julie, you make me want to read this with your simply stunning review! You're a storyteller for sure :) Adding this!" A review riddled with typos! Fixed! I think :) Gah!

Cheryl, I'm so keen to know what you think of this. I'm pretty floored by the negative reader reviews, though the critical acclaim was solid and revelatory. I found it brilliant and profound. It's not a fun read, though there is a wry humor that is so effectively employed and so Irish. And of course we have the conundrum of the "unlikable" protagonist, the condemnation of which seems to plague so many women writers. I will be reading more Enright, for sure.


message 4: by Maureen (new)

Maureen YES!!!! ;-)


message 5: by Carol (new)

Carol A brilliant novel of Ireland, of family, of memory.

And this is a brilliant review of this novel, Julie!


message 6: by Carol (new)

Carol Julie, though we have connected only recently on GR it is my good fortune.

Very informative review. Thank you.


Angela M Terrific review , Julie .


Julie Christine Carol wrote: "A brilliant novel of Ireland, of family, of memory.

And this is a brilliant review of this novel, Julie!"


Carol, thank you!!


Julie Christine Carol wrote: "Julie, though we have connected only recently on GR it is my good fortune.

Very informative review. Thank you."
Oh, such sweetness. And I'm so fortunate, as well, Carol- thank you!


Julie Christine Angela M wrote: "Terrific review , Julie ." Angela, thank you. I'm thrilled to see this book moved you, as well.


Julie Christine Maureen wrote: "YES!!!! ;-)" SO GLAD you recommended this, Mo!!


Angela M I read it a while ago before I started writing reviews so too late for that but I enjoyed yours .


Soumen Daschoudhury This tells us so much about the soul of the woman who leads us into her family’s past, the volumes of sorrow and anger and shame that swell in her heart like pages of a book left out in the rain.

That's a great poetic review Julie!

I had read this book sometime back and loved the boldness of the words and as you have rightly said,

it is a novel of character and feelings, of reflection and observation. For me, it roared with life. Enright’s prose is sometimes alluring and gentle, sometimes a slap in the face, but it is always original, precise, the fine point of a calligraphy pen that seduces the brain.


message 14: by Kim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kim Great review! Have to admit I like your review better than the actual novel. However, I read it back in 2008 and I think 10 years on I'd appreciate it more.


Julie Christine Kim wrote: "Great review! Have to admit I like your review better than the actual novel. However, I read it back in 2008 and I think 10 years on I'd appreciate it more." Thank you, Kim!


Laura It's a brilliant novel of family and Ireland, so long as you don't actually come from that background.


back to top