Title: The Gathering
Author: Anne Enright
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:
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.