The only reason I finished this book is because our book club was reviewing it. Nobody at the meeting liked it. It was rambling, took forever to get to the point (if it ever had one) and I was left with no sense of closure at all.
One reviewer called this book "stunning". While such adjectives are overused this one certainly applies in this case. This unassuming book packs a surprising punch.
Veronica is one of several children, somewhere in the middle of the group, who grow up, with a mother who is almost invisible and a father who dispassionately hits when people are in his way, near Dublin. The story centers around the suicide death of her brother Liam when Veronica is 39 years old. Veronica tells the story in the first person, dipping into and out of memory, slipping backward and forward in time. Her memories, though, are not exact. She has to guess most of the time and in some cases she embroiders deliberately, creating images she would like to have happened but knows probably did not. It is this aspect of the story that rang especially true for me, given that I am not at all sure of my own memories and I have an idea how memory works.
Eventually, as Veronica explores her own thoughts and memories a picture comes to her, a real memory. Although the place may not be correct she knows the incident is, and it is only as an older adult that she recognizes what the incident really meant for her brother and her family. The memory shocks her and she continues to search her memories and even to search her mother's house for some verification of what she actually knows.
The death of Liam has a profound effect on Veronica and her family. Her conversations rarely make sense to others. She dwells on the peculiarities of her dysfunctional family. Her mind and her actions wander incessantly. Yet somehow, every strange twist and turn leads to an inevitable finish.
Although the format of the book seems, on the surface, almost chaotic, it makes sense while in it. It is complex yet consistent and utterly real.
I don't usually take the time to read reviews, but this one was crying out for one. Frankly, I could not finish this book. The author's style is vague and you are constantly wondering what she is trying to tell you with the words she chooses. In fairness, my brother in law liked this book a lot. I was extremely disappointed. It makes me want to look for the "Man Booker Prize" designation on books, and then avoid those books.
This is the book that officially put me off Irish authors. To spend nearly 300 pages whining about having a family, nice house and two kids just because of something that may or may not have happened thirty years ago to someone else is the worst premise for a book I've seen.
You just want to shake her and say "THIS is why you're being such a self-indulgent asshole?! Get over it already."
I grew up in a large Catholic family; my mother was 100% Irish. I was totally engrossed in this book. There was so much that resonated with me because of my upbringing (both painful and joyful; the many personalities that populate a large family). I've highly recommended it to all of my siblings. This is one of those books that have stuck in my mind, that I keep returning to, months after I finished reading it. I do recommend it!
I have read hundreds of books of all types in my life. This is only the THIRD I could not bring myself to finish. I made it to page 135 and I just could not bring myself to care any more. It's not that it was dark and depressing - many books are like that. It's not that it's a little slow at the beginning - how many truly wonderful books are like that? It's just that it was SO random and so rambling and so pointless. If, by the middle of the book, I couldn't care less about one single character, then why waste my time? I know this won the Man Booker Prize and all that. Many heavy-duty prize winners are difficult books. This book was not difficult. I was just bored. I hope others find this book worth the prize it won.
If you're looking for an adventure don't pick this book up. If you're looking for a woman's personal journey and a reflection on her life triggered by her brother's death, then give this a chance.
I will admit, I found the first two-thirds of the book slow and lackluster, but once I hit the final third I was glad I finished. It sort of redeemed itself and I was glad to see the realization and change the main character came to.
Disclaimer: I read this for a book club, i.e., I was forced to read it. I normally stay clear of the "family gathering after the death of a loved one" genre, and found this book to be a typical example, with the added embellishment of a different set of [g-rated edit] in every chapter. Plus, I'm tire of the gag where the writer goes over and over an event while slowly revealing the true facts. The ending was strong, I'll admit, and the writing was good -- good enough, and focused enough, that I think this author may be an accomplished short-story writer.
Thirty-nine year old Veronica Hegarty is the middle child in a large Irish Catholic family of nine. She travels to London to collect the body of her rebellious elder brother Liam, after he commits suicide. As Veronica escorts Liam's body to Dublin for his wake, she contemplates her family - her overly passive mother, her own unhappy marriage, her dissatisfaction with her husband and children, and the deep, dark secret that drove Liam - her favorite brother - to commit his final desperate act.
Something unspeakable happened to Liam at his grandmother's house in the winter of 1968, something which Veronica has kept secret for all their lives. As Veronica's family assembles for Liam's wake - amid all the reacquainting, squabbling, and various recollections of their shared past - Veronica broods on Liam's death and the single traumatic event that occurred in Liam's childhood that ultimately affected him his entire adult life. As Veronica recalls her own and Liam's childhood spent together at their grandmother's house, she is unsure if she actually witnessed the trauma that Liam experienced in the winter of 1968, or whether it is something that she has imagined happening.
Anne Enright is an extremely talented writer - her writing is incredibly lyrical and very evocative, in my opinion. I did enjoy parts of this book, however the line between reality and fantasy was rather blurred for me at times. I found it hard to decide what actually happened and what was only in Veronica's imagination. I feel that I should have liked The Gathering more than I did because the writing was so good, however I ultimately had to give The Gathering by Anne Enright an A!
Beautifully written, darkly funny and poignant at the same time, The Gathering is a story of a contemporary Irish family and the unfolding of its secrets as the narrator grieves for her brother, who commits suicide before the novel begins.
This haunting story is told from the point of view of a sister whose brother has just committed suicide. The story takes place in Ireland and gives an account of a large family. The narrator imagines some past events and double backs to retell the story based on what she knows as reality. This narrative technique was a little tricky to follow sometimes, but it resembled real human thought in speculating about what might cause a mother to act a certain way or a brother to give up. The narrator's guilt and regret permeate the story as the reader worries about the narrator's own state of mental health.
A lovely book, literally. Full of love, and frustration, for bountiful Irish family, told from the perspective of one of twelve siblings. A brother has just died, a somewhat prodigal son, and through the jumbled reflections of the sister's grieving mind we see into the dark past, which inevitably has maddening ramifications on today and tomorrow. Enright's prose reflects an epic internal landscape, mirrored by the rough North Sea beaches and contrasted by the tight corners and limiting houses of her Dublin childhood. Haunting.
I'm not really sure why this book won the Man Booker Prize... I was not impressed by it at all. I didn't really like it, and for a short book (under 300 pages), it seemed dragged out and dull in sections. There were hints of great secrets and revelations to come, but none were revealed. The narrator was a rather unlikable woman and the "resolution" (hardly the right word for this ending) was terribly weak. All in all, it was well-written, but unsatisfying.
I, like so many others, could not finish this book. I spent a few days trying but, in the end, just had to give up. I honestly cannot think of one thing I liked about this book. Every character, narrator included, seemed very superficial and self-indulged to the point of merely existing near each other. I found myself not caring about Liam, who he was, or why he died.
I pushed myself to finish 50 pages before I rewarded myself by closing this prize winning book. Has Enright ever met a large family? Is she capable of setting up anything without crudity? He misses his sister, so he takes himself in hand. The man on the bus raises his pelvis... These examples are the best I can come up with and be willing to post as a review, the others are way to foul for me to be willing to put in black and white, the "author" not so.
I know I'm not supposed to put this type of information here, but can't see where else to put it. This is a paperback, but the cover looks like the hardcover. The ISBN number matches the hardcover book, but that is incorrect.