Review | The Gathering: by Anne Enright

The opening sentence of this book foretells the path of the narrative of Veronica Hegarty. ” I would like to write down what happened in my grandmother’s house the summer I was eight or nine, but I am not sure if it really did happen.”

Enright’s meditation on memory melds the past and present in The Gathering. Veronica is thirty nine years old, and arranging her brother, Liam’s funeral, but her memories are from childhood. Memories she has repressed. She begins to question whether she has been deliberately filling in blanks in a certain false way, because in her heart that’s what she really wants the situation to have been.

The nine surviving Hegarty children are now adults and gather in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother. Liam and Veronica share a secret.

Enright explains her focus: “I am fascinated by the problem of Goodness. The characters in my novels are damaged, but though they are interested in badness, they are more interested in/bewildered by goodness.”1 As an author, she is interested in things that are barely spoken of or taboo. Shame and quilt drive this story. Memories are buried but not deep enough to remain silent.

The line of betrayal is traced through three generations – memories warp and secrets fester. The clan of siblings seek to protect their mother from the dark truth behind their brother’s death by walking into the sea at Brighton and drowning.

Stormy Sea, Brighton by John Constable

Matriarchs loom large in the works of Anne Enright. Here she is pictured with her own mother.

This may sound like a very dark story, but Enright is known for her use of humor, often envoking the Irish comedic tradition by challenging traditional belief systems.

Enright, who once compared her relationship to the Irish literary scene to a salad – “I’m always on the side.”2 – is now at it’s heart: in 2015 she was appointed the nation’s inaugural laureate for fiction. As you note from the book cover, “The Gathering” won the 2007 Man Booker Prize. Next on my list of Enright novels is “Actress”.

2Source: The Guardian – an interview with Lisa Allardice

Published by Audrey Newhall

I am an avid reader and contributor to Penna Book Reviews

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