Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Gathering, Anne Enright--Booker Prize winner 2007

Wow. What started as a vaguely ethereal, esoteric rambling about an invisible mother, turned into one of the most brutally painful and beautifully written stories of loss and hoped-for redemption I've ever read.

The main character, Veronica, spends a lot of time musing about her family; its past, in part how she imagines it and in part how she remembers it, and it's present, as she feels it. Her "Irish twin" brother has passed away and as the family gathers to mourn (whether it's real grief or obligatory in nature), she is forced to face a gut-wrenching memory that clarifies for her everything that has ever seemed "off" about the people she loves, including herself.

I really didn't expect to like it. It had a Virginia Woolf-eque stream of consciousness initially that has always turned me off. I am fascinated by the life of Woolf; I love the idea of Woolf, but not so much the words of Woolf. So I expected to have to trudge my way through this, semi-congratulating myself all the way for being a reader of such lofty and ambitious literature. But by page 100 or so, I was finding myself wishing for a spare minute in the day so I could steal a few pages, dying to know what happens next; not so much in an action driven sort of way, but in the sense that I just loved this narrator, was broken hearted for her, and wanted to spend a few more minutes with her.

I was satisfied when it was over, but truly wanted to know what happened next. I spent some time envisioning what would happen after the closing pages, had Enright chosen to take her story into the next chapter of this woman's (and her family's) life. This is one that will resonate with me for quite some time.


SarahJane said...

I just joined this challenge, too. I would like to read The Gathering, but can't get my hands easily on a copy. Still good to read your review and put a tic mark next to this title for another time.

KMW said...

Ack! I still haven't finished! I am almost done, but clearly, you are a faster reader than I am. I do like your description of the book. Right on. I do have a slight problem with empathy for Veronica. Sometimes I just don't like her...but I also love her flaws guess I do love her. It is such a beautifully written book.

Tress said...

Hey, little lady...guess what I did today? I printed the NYT Notable List AND the Man Booker list. Time for a little direction, I say! Though I'm not much of a "joiner" so haven't enrolled in the whole official challenge end of things - but it will be nice to have somewhere discuss a book or two. Meaning here.

Also, went looking for Little Children after reading your post, but couldn't find it so I bought The Abstinence Teacher b/c had recently read interesting review of that one. Whaddya know? It's on the NYT List!