Sunday, August 09, 2009
The Gathering, winner of the Man Booker in 2007, is the fourth novel by Irish author Anne Enright. Thirty-nine year old Veronica Hegarty is one of twelve children in an Irish family, nine of whom are still living. This story is told by her as she prepares for the funeral of her alcoholic brother Liam who has committed suicide in England. Her account, ranging across three generations of her family history, is unsparing. This is all about memory and its elusiveness.
Veronica holds great disdain for her mother who has had the psychological stuffing knocked out of her by 19 pregnancies that resulted in 12 live births and 7 miscarriages and is now, perhaps always was, a vague ghostly shell of a woman. She has more respect for her flashy, passionate maternal grandmother, Ada, with whom she and two of her siblings lived when their mother was overwhelmed by the rigours of her serial pregnancies. There is the distinct possibility that Ada may have enabled familial child sexual abuse. Veronica weaves a story of her own imagining around Ada's early life in an attempt to make sense of the sorry spot they have all arrived at.
In her grief she pushes her two daughters away; her loathing for her huband, Tom, is of longer standing. She and her surviving siblings comprise a potent and volatile stew as they gather to say goobye to Liam.
The novel is filled with a despair for which there is no consolation but the writing is dead-on and clever and after sucking it all up I find I want a second helping of Enright soon.