Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Gathering

The Gathering by Anne Enright.
As promised after seeing that this book won the 2008 Man Booker Prize, I went out and bought the book and read it. It is hard to understand why it won the prize, when I have read so many other better books. The book was good, just not that good. And going to the Barnes and Noble site, I saw that there were others reviewing the book who felt like reading the book was a waste of time. So be forewarned.

It is actually a good story, but written difficult. (I know that doesn't really make sense). It takes place in Ireland and is told by Veronica Hegarty, one of twelve children of a very traditional Irish Catholic family. The family has gathered together for the funeral of her older brother, Liam, who walked into the sea with stones in his pockets.

Through-out the book, Veronica examines her resentment toward her “Mammy”, who none of the family ever wanted to upset and kept things from her to avoid upsetting her, and toward her husband and children, apparently for tying her down. Mixed into that, Veronica shares a secret from childhood involving her grandparent’s generation. She spends a lot of the book either imagining and/or remembering her grandparent’s lives, especially her grandmother, Ada.

The book is also examining some of Liam’s life. Veronica states: "the seeds of my brother's death were sown many years ago…" She could be referring to numerous things, including the childhood secret. Liam led a life of destruction, mixed with alcoholism. He had detached himself fairly much from the family, just showing up every once in awhile.

It never felt like any of the characters in the novel were developed fully. I didn’t really feel like I especially cared about any of them. This was one of those books that I kept reading thinking that it would get better. And, in a sense, it did. At the end, there was a feeling of continuity, among all the other emotions that threaded through the book (regret, passion, anger, love, etc.).

Do I recommend the book? Not really. It wasn’t a bad read, but there are others that are so much better.

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