The Gathering – Anne Enright

Title: The Gathering
Author: Anne Enright
ISBN: 0802170390
Pages: 272
Release Date: September 10, 2007
Challenge: A to Z, RYOB 2009, Winter Reading Challenge
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5

From the back cover:

Anne Enright is a dazzling writer of international stature and one of Ireland’s most singular voices. Now she delivers The Gathering, a moving, evocative portrait of a large Irish family and a shot of fresh blood into the Irish literary tradition, combining the lyricism of the old with the shock of the new. The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him—something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction and gives it back to us in a new and unforgettable light. The Gathering is a daring, witty, and insightful family epic, clarified through Anne Enright’s unblinking eye. It is a novel about love and disappointment, about how memories warp and secrets fester, and how fate is written in the body, not in the stars.

The Gathering won the Man Booker Prize in 2007, and I have been wanting to read it ever since. However, the tepid reviews on Amazon.com and other blogs made reluctant to give it a try, especially considering I had high expectations because it won the Booker. I decided to finally give it a try, expectations in check, when I listed it as I book I wanted to read for the Winter Reading Challenge. Was I disappointed? I’m not entirely sure.

I really don’t know how to review The Gathering. On one hand, the writing was really beautiful. Enright’s prose has a lyrical quality to it; even at the most dramatic parts of the book, the writing is smooth and even. The language is simply stunning and makes me want to seek out Enright’s other books; it is clear that she is an exceptionally talented writer.

The problem is the story. There some writers for whom plot doesn’t matter; their wonderful writing talent makes up for any lack of storyline. I’m not sure whether Anne Enright falls into that category or not. The storyline is definitely dull and a bit convoluted. There is obviously more than one story being told at the same time; what isn’t clear is which stories those are. I have a feeling that TThe Gathering is best understood across multiple readings; unfortunately, I don’t have the patience to sit through it more than once.

To make things even more complicated, the storytelling is haphazard. From chapter to chapter, the story jumps from past to present back to past with no warning. The smoothing quality of Enright’s writing makes these time jumps difficult to discern right away, so the reader might be halfway through a chapter before he or she realizes the time period has changed completely. It is definitely frustrating.

So, then, do I recommend The Gathering? If you are interested in the Booker winners or finalists, I’d go ahead and read it. If not, I’d shy away from this one; there are plenty of exceptional novels on the Booker Prize shortlists. There is no need to trouble yourself with an exasperating and somewhat boring novel, however beautiful the prose may be.

Comments

  1. I’m sorry it was a disappointment.

  2. Hmmm…probably not going on my TBR any time soon!! I’ve actually heard it’s pretty depressing. So I thnk I’ll pass. Too bad it was a disappointment for you!

  3. I agree with you. I reviewed it sometime last year and remember thinking it was dull and disappointing. The Booker committee did better with their 2008 choice!

  4. I think I’ll pass. I’ve been wondering about this one, so thanks for the review.

  5. Great review! I’ve been wondering about this book as well but I hate it when writers go back and forth in the story and forget to tell the reader. So confusing! Thanks!

  6. Oh no, I have this one to read. I’ve wanted to read it for a while. This doesn’t make me want to get there any faster although I’ll probably give it a go anyway.

  7. oh..thats bad, I was thinking of borrowing this book from my friend but I don’t think i will now. I am not that particular about prize winning books either.

  8. I reviewed this one here. I thought it was disappointing to. I didn’t like Veronica’s character, and it annoyed me that she would retell things. I don’t mind unreliable narrators, but it was a bit much for me here.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  9. Anonymous says:

    Could this be considered as historical fiction?

  10. Anonymous says:

    this book is so confusing and bad. i have no idea whats going on..whats the secret that happened in the winter??

  11. Anonymous says:

    this book is so confusing and bad. i have no idea whats going on..whats the secret that happened in the winter??

  12. I agree with you too. The novel was too meandering, dark, and depressing.

    The writing is beautiful though.

    I read an anthology of her short stories Yesterday’s Weather and noticed a similar quality of writing there also…exceptionally beautiful language but otherwise too dull.

  13. I agree with you too. The novel was too meandering, dark, and depressing.

    The writing is beautiful though.

    I read an anthology of her short stories Yesterday’s Weather and noticed a similar quality of writing there also…exceptionally beautiful language but otherwise too dull.

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