The Gathering (Anne Enright)

The Gathering is the Booker Prize winning novel by Anne Enright. Although it’s short, it takes a while to read it. I’m not really sure if it’s worth that effort.

After her brother Liam dies, Veronica Hegarty and the remaining members of her family gather together to say their goodbyes. Woven into these current proceedings is the life and love story of Veronica’s grandmother Ada and how that past influenced the present and especially Liam.

9780099501633Also a beautiful cover. The blue eyes are often referrenced in the text as “Hegarty eyes”.

[SPOILERS! Be Warned! SPOILERS!]

I’m a little torn about this book. On the one hand, it’s written in very good prose with wonderful phrases and metaphors, on the other hand it’s very heavy on the symbolical side, which is not really to my taste.
Back on the first hand again, I really didn’t guess the revelation that Liam was abused as a child, on the second hand, was that all the revelation? Not that I mean to belittle child abuse. I have worked with abused children, I know how destroyed they are. But why go all the way back to a tragic love story [but a very beautiful one] to explain the existence of Lamb Nugent in the life of Ada, when he’s her landlord as well? It just seemed a bit non sequitur.

And I can keep going like this. For every time I wanted to slap Veronica, because she was so stuck in her existence [it wouldn’t have been an entirely compassionless slap], she tells me a sweet story of her boyfriend Michael Weiss or about her kids. Everytime I thought that reading this book is too slow and I’m going to give it up [it took me almost a month to read this book that doesn’t even have 300 pages. As comparison: It took me about 6 weeks to read Doctor Zhivago], there was another hook in the story, another detail that kept me reading.

The thing is, I didn’t really care about Veronica, which is bad as she was the narrator. But I did care about Liam and Ada, who, unfortunately, didn’t feature as much as they could have.

While I recognise the quality of the novel, it was kind of like reading for work and not for pleasure. So there you see my problem. Despite of having no objective failures, I wouldn’t recommend it without saying that I didn’t really get into it. And I’m definitely not going to read it again.

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