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The Gatheringby Anne Enright
Winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize
Winner of the 2008 Irish Book Award for Best Novel
Synopses & Reviews
The new novel from one of Ireland's most prominent voices, The Gathering is an extraordinary anatomization of a family confronting the ghosts of its history.
A dazzling writer of international stature, Anne Enright is one of Ireland's most singular voices. Now she delivers The Gathering, a return to an intimate canvas and a moving, evocative portrait of a large Irish family haunted by the past.
The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him — something that happened in their grandmother's house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations, she shows how memories warp and secrets fester. The Gathering is a family epic, clarified through Anne Enright's unblinking eye. This is a novel about love and disappointment, about how fate is written in the body, not in the stars.
The Gathering sends fresh blood through the Irish literary tradition, combining the lyricism of the old with the shock of the new. As in all of Anne Enright's work, this is a book of daring, wit, and insight, her distinctive intelligence twisting the world a fraction and giving it back to us in a new and unforgettable light.
"'In the taut latest from Enright (What Are You Like?), middle-aged Veronica Hegarty, the middle child in an Irish-Catholic family of nine, traces the aftermath of a tragedy that has claimed the life of rebellious elder brother Liam. As Veronica travels to London to bring Liam's body back to Dublin, her deep-seated resentment toward her overly passive mother and her dissatisfaction with her husband and children come to the fore. Tempers flare as the family assembles for Liam's wake, and a secret Veronica has concealed since childhood comes to light. Enright skillfully avoids sentimentality as she explores Veronica's past and her complicated relationship with Liam. She also bracingly imagines the life of Veronica's strong-willed grandmother, Ada. A melancholic love and rage bubbles just beneath the surface of this Dublin clan, and Enright explores it unflinchingly." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"There is something livid and much that is stunning about 'The Gathering,' which deservedly won this year's Man Booker Prize. Anger brushes off every page, a species of rage that aches to confront silence and speak truth, at last. The book's narrative tone echoes Joan Didion's furious, cool grief, but the richest comparison may be with James Joyce's 'Dubliners,' of which the author, always his own... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) best interlocutor, claimed, 'My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the center of paralysis.' Perhaps Anne Enright's novel is the 'Dubliners' of the new millennium, even if she has not quite invented the wheel, stylistically and thematically, as Joyce did in his 1914 story collection. Both books are concerned with life now, though Joyce's now is turn-of-the-19th-century Dublin, whereas Enright's Dublin — stainless steel Miele dishwashers, Saab 9-3s, small girls being raised on organic sausage and beans — is pretty much current. But it does seem clear that Enright's purpose is also to add a chapter to the moral history of her country. 'The Gathering' tells a family story, which may be the best way to attempt such a thing. The story is grounded in the Ireland that invented itself sometime around 1985, when the emigration that had been paring the country down to its bones for 150 years started to slow and, eventually, reverse. More people speak Polish than Irish in the Republic these days, the population is inching up to its pre-famine level, and the girl pulling your pint in the terribly upscale bar at Dalkey has her MBA from the University of Ghent; the Irish have become attractively rich for the first time. Joyce wouldn't know the place. The past used to weigh heavily on the Irish, perhaps because so little of the present was interesting. But Enright's Dublin is a technologically adept country spellbound by the speed of its own transformation, where citizens older than 40 feel antediluvian and try to conceal it by memorizing the names of important wines or taking golf vacations in South Carolina. These Dubliners are accustomed to urban sprawl, spellbinding real estate prices and self-contained children more familiar with the folkways of Orange County than those of County Mayo. The Republic has become postmodern and post-Catholic overnight, it seems, and the Irish are as confused as anyone by the way we, and they, live now. 'The Gathering' is a novel about memory: who did what to whom, who remembers the facts clearly and who doesn't. (Hardly anyone does, even the narrator.) Enright explores the tragedy of a brother's suicide by sorting through events that occurred, or did not, in a terraced house in the north Dublin suburb of Broadstone "round about 1968. Or maybe it was in the garage; memory, Enright signals, is a painful, tricky thing. Enright's Hegartys were once 12 brothers and sisters. The survivors are now in various stages of middle age. Her story builds around the recent death of an annoying, beloved brother, Liam, who has drowned by walking out into the sea at Brighton. Narrated by Liam's nearest-in-age sister, Veronica, who remembers persons and events that shaped her brother's unsatisfactory life, the novel is grounded in the weeks following Liam's death. And here there are certainly conscious echoes of earlier Irish fictions, where coffins, wakes and funeral masses figure so prominently. But Veronica's edginess keeps moving powerfully back to memories of the childhood and adolescence shared with Liam and all those others. She tries to unreel that fierce Irish silence that, with cups of strong tea, used to get everyone through, often at considerable psychological cost. Everything that happens and does not happen here feels painfully and awkwardly true, even the notes of redemption. Enright seems to know the bone structure of the Irish family during its turbulent silence of the 1960s and "70s, when elders were still treated with fearful deference and children were less important than they are now, perhaps because there were so many of them and the houses were so tiny. One last literary comparison suggests itself. Enright's Veronica — Saab and all — keeps banging into her Irish life, digging for a memory that will explain the inexplicable. In Alice Munro's brilliant, always surprising stories, provincial women, likewise raised to value silence, hold up stubborn candles and speak of matters not previously awarded language. In their own distractingly noisy way, the Irish have always been quite as silent as Munro's reserved Canadians, but now, it seems, is the time for talk. Peter Behrens is the author of 'The Law of Dreams.'" Reviewed by Peter Behrens, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Anne Enright's style is as sharp and brilliant as Joan Didion's; the scope of her understanding is as wide as Alice Munro's; her sympathy for her characters is as tender and subtle as Alice McDermott's; her vision of Ireland is as brave and original as Edna O'Brien's. The Gathering is her best book." Colm Toibin, author of The Master and Mothers and Sons
"In the supercharged beauty of her oddly brittle, spiky sentences, you hear the cadences of the incomparable Don DeLillo....The penetrating exploration of domestic relationships, especially among women, calls to mind...Anne Tyler." Newsday
"Delivers with sharp wit and a huge heart." Elle
"A dreamy, melancholy swirl of a story, wise about the bonds and burdens linking children to each other and their grown selves." Kirkus Reviews
"While readers won't be drawn to the characters, anyone who perseveres will find a story of harsh redemption and of a future found in a child's blue eyes." Library Journal
About the Author
Anne Enright's work has appeared in The Paris Review, Harper's, The New Yorker, and The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction.
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