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chesilbeach

"The Gathering" by Anne Enright

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Synopsis (from waterstones.com):

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. His sister, Veronica was there then, as she is now: keeping the dead man company, just for another little while. The "Gathering" is a family epic, condensed and clarified through the remarkable lens of Anne Enright's unblinking eye. It is also a sexual history: tracing the line of hurt and redemption through three generations - starting with the grandmother, Ada Merriman - showing how memories warp and family secrets fester.

 

Review:

This book is essentially about how the unreliable narrator, Veronica Hegarty, tries to make sense of and come to terms with, the death of her beloved brother. Through her own imagined history of her grandmothers life and how she came to meet and marry her grandfather, and the gradual revealing of an incident she witnesses when just a young child, Veronica takes us through the history of her family.

 

I didn't enjoy this book much at all. Although she's meant to be unreliable as a narrator, Veronica's almost infatuated imagining of Ada's relationships made the story pointless for me. Her fantastical recounting of her grandmothers sexual encounters told as if relating actual events felt like a waste of time, and when the revelation of the incident is eventually told, it had long ago been guessed by this reader.

 

None of the characters were properly fleshed out for me, and I think that was the main failing. If I could have believed more in the various members of the Hegarty family, I could maybe have invested more in Veronica's story and tried to understand her story, but as it was, they were all just names on paper.

 

There were some good points though, and I did chuckle a couple of times during the final few chapters when the gathering of the title actually takes place, and the members of the family come home for their brothers funeral. There are some nicely observed moments of the various brothers and sisters, but it was so close to the end of the book, that it was too late to make sense of them as individual characters.

 

One of my other reading group members felt completely the opposite to me, and thought that it was a beautiful, honest description of a large family. She comes from a large family herself, and could identify with the various bonds and connections within the family hierarchy, so maybe I didn't have the same sympathy with the characters coming from an only child family, but part of me says that it is the authors responsibility to make me believe and empathise with the situation, and not to feel alienated from it.

 

I wouldn't be looking to read any further books by this author, but having said that, if I was given another of her books to read for a book group, I would probably give her another chance.

 

This book won the Man Booker Prize in 2007, but I think when it was announced, it had sold less than 3000 copies (I think it was as low as 260ish copies when it was first longlisted, but that's just from memory), so it really must have been an outsider to win the prize.

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How about Roddy Doyle - The Van for humour?

 

I have not read The Gathering, and from the review above, I dont think I will bother. The reviews on Amazon are of the same opinion. So this looks like one to miss. Thanks for the review Chiselbeach.

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How about Roddy Doyle - The Van for humour?

 

 

I remember reading it on a beach and actually laughing out loud, it's probably the only time a book has made me actually laugh audibly rather than just smile, people gave me strange looks (but then, they might have done that anyway).

Great book :D

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I agree with what was said in post #1. It didn't seem to have a point. There were a lot of memories and invented - possible - scenarios, but in the end, it just didn't come out as strong as I would have wanted it to. However, I didn't hate it, I thought it was worth the read because I liked the narration, but again, the story was a bit disappointing.

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