Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ann Enright: The Gathering

Oh good lord.
The blurb on this book states: "The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan gather in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother Liam. It wasn't the drink that killed him - although that certainly helped - it was what happened to him as a boy in his grandmother's house, in the winter of 1968." And that is wrong, and misleading. Wrong because although there are nine of the twelve children surviving, one sister, Alice, does not make an appearance at the wake. Misleading because the gathering of the siblings at the wake takes 28 pages in a book of 261, and what happened to Liam in 1968 is never spoken of amongst the siblings.

No, this book is about how Veronica deals with the death of her closest brother.

I liked very little of this book. There is a vague chronological plot, beginning with notice of Liam's death, and ending a few months later, but at the same time as that plot proceeds, events yet in the future are spoken of, and events both in the far and recent past are revisited. And everything is clouded by both Veronica's uncertainly about what she remembers, and her fantasies about what may have happened.

At the end of the book I had the wearying feeling that never had I read so many words written about so little.

I must mention that this is yet another Booker prize winner written in my least favourite narrative style - the first person. In fact, part way through reading this book I reconsidered my plan to read all of the Booker winners, thinking that I haven't really enjoyed many that I have read. I like a damn good story that sucks me in, and spits me out at the other end so immersed in the story that it is a shock to open my eyes and find myself inhabiting my life.

Okay, thinking back, "the sea, the sea", and "The Life of Pi" have sucked me in, and "The White Tiger" came close, so it's not as bad as I am making out. I shall continue.


  1. I could agree with your review if I had finished the book. Instead, I dropped it like a hot potato about 80 pages in... it just seemed so pointless.

  2. Great review! And good luck with the rest of them!

  3. Thank you for this honest review. I feel the same way about many Bookers, and while I'll keep going, your review has helped me know that I won't pick The Gathering up very soon. Sometimes I really wonder how the judges could pick certain books as winners. good luck, and thanks again for your honesty.