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The Gathering by Anne Enright
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The Gathering (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Anne Enright

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2,8551502,033 (3.03)303
Member:dylanwolf
Title:The Gathering
Authors:Anne Enright
Info:Vintage (2008), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:DOC - FRI
Rating:
Tags:Ireland, read

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The Gathering by Anne Enright (2007)

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English (141)  Dutch (4)  German (2)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (149)
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
Too rambling and disjointed for me - couldn't make myself finish. ( )
  srtsrt | Aug 3, 2014 |

Unfortunately, The Gathering didn’t really do it for me. The Irish setting of the book was played up a lot on the cover and in some of the endorsements on the back of the book, but the Hegartys didn’t seem to embody the “Irish family” as claimed. Now, to be fair, I don’t exactly have a whole lot of knowledge in the subject, but I do feel like you could have taken out the heritage of the Hegartys and have the exact same story.

There were two aspects of this book I really enjoyed, and the book ends up with a star for each. The first is the way Anne Enright writes memories. The narrator in this book will describe a memory she has, and then admit that she knows the memory can’t have happened the way she thought it did because of some detail she remembers. This is how memories work in real life–I’m sure we all have memories we can recall with absolute certainty, only to remember things couldn’t have actually happened that way because we remember other circumstances surrounding the event, yet in our minds that memory remains firmly in place. That can be quite a frustrating experience, to feel you’re right about something when the facts you yourself remember contradict you, and I felt that throughout the course of this book. The first half of this book is composed mainly of memories, and for the first fifty pages, I was firmly hooked on this story for that simple fact alone.

The second aspect that I enjoyed was the writing itself. Each sentence was like a poem in and of itself. Even at moments in the book when terrible things were happening, the way each sentence was written was nothing short of beautiful. It’s the kind of writing that just begs to be made into an audio book to fall asleep to.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book fell short for me. Many of the memories that the narrator recalls seems to have no actual significance for her family or the plot of the book. It takes an entire half of the book to get to the point where you can even begin to realize what the story is about, and by that point I was already lost. Nothing seems to get resolved from that point on, and instead the narrator just keeps plodding along.

This is the epitome of a two star book for me. It’s certainly not terrible, but it’s not really close to reaching an enjoyable level either.

Final Impression: The writing in this book is gorgeous and at times haunting, but it doesn’t really stand on anything else. It takes too long for the “big reveal” moment to actually happen, and by that time I didn’t really have quite the level of emotional attachment to the Hegarty family as I would have liked. 2/5 stars.

Review originally posted on my blog at Book.Blog.Bake. ( )
  Stormydawnc | Jun 23, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

It’s not evil to describe a flaccid penis

The narrator is Veronica. She is middle-aged, married, with kids, and says penis a lot. I wouldn’t have noticed the last detail had I not been warned by a friend, asking me to count the word penis. Not that the narrator is sexually deranged, it just so happened that she watches her husband sleeping naked and describes it, and remembers her brother Liam peeing an arched piss and describes it. There is nothing sexually notorious, except for one wriggling memory that may have affected her brother’s behavior before he died.

And this memory is something that Veronica could not even conjure without raising the demons of doubt altogether. No, it happened this way. No, it was like this. No, I am not sure that it happened.

Liam’s death necessitated the gathering of the eight surviving siblings, including Veronica. In this novel, Veronica rethinks her life to find out the truths that ultimately led to his brother’s death. This did not prove to be an easy task, and whoever said that it’s nothing, it’s fine, must not be a living organism.

For a while, I practised with my own wounds and scabs, and was taken, each time, by the brightness of the red on the white toilet paper I used instead of Ada’s tea towels. Children do not understand pain; they experiment with it, but you could almost say that they don’t feel it, or do not know how to feel it, until they are grown. And even then, it seems we always feel pain for the wrong thing. Or so it has been with me.

The first pages of the book might make the reader a little suspicious, for Veronica states that she wants to write her story and her brother’s story, and something that has, or has not, happened when they stayed at her grandmother’s house. A sign of unreliability, you might say, but give it the benefit of the doubt.

Throughout the novel, the narrator keeps on revising the details of her past. She would go on to say that this is what happened. The next chapter, she would start and say, no, that is not what happened, this is what really happened. I was sometimes annoyed because I was trying to formulate my own conclusions, and at the flick of the page, she would invalidate the facts. It even got to the point that I hurled my mass market edition just to breathe.

Just think about this: Veronica’s unreliability could be just the most reliable virtue that she has. In rethinking and doubting her memories and herself, we understand that she is trying her best to come up with the most truthful account of the best to the best of her abilities, or lack thereof. This could backfire though, because the impatient reader might just give up on the novel and look for something else to read.

But this book is rewarding. The narratives are alive with descriptions that seem like they are your own memories. It’s either that or the words are just too precise to evoke the right image. Truth is, there isn’t enough action going on in the present. Liam dies. He drowns himself. His body is sent to the household. Father and mother and brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews gather.

And really, that is not what we are looking it. We watch Veronica’s perfect life crumble as the past joins in the reunion. She realizes a lot of things about Liam, to whom she is closest with, and about herself. She escapes from the presence of her husband and her daughter to take long drives, to drink maybe some whisky, and to mull things over. The past sends shockwaves and unsettles her so much that she re-examine her life, her pains, her demons.

And this death, Liam’s death, is not the novel’s main attraction. When person die, the drama unfolds around the people nearby that person. That’s where the attraction is, and that is what the novel tackles. And funny, we almost always have this need for a change when death occurs, particularly the death of a loved one. Hence, Veronica’s story.

It annoys me that some readers hint at this as softcore porn. There is nothing pornographic in it. I will defend it against the haters, although there will be too much defending to do because I noticed that the book has a lot of haters, based on the average ratings at social book networking sites. I even raised my rating a notch higher as a sign of my appreciation for this novel.

And going back to the innumerable mention of penis, I doubt that this stems from a strong sexual desire. I think that Veronica, and Liam for this matter, are merely looking for love. Veronica wouldn’t be struggling too much had she been comforted by love. Liam’s cause of death, surely, is his inability to find that elusive pure love. So why are people bothered when Veronica mentions her husbands dead penis and its purplish scrotum?

Oh well, Veronica takes in a lot of details. This can be a tiresome attribute, but they are nice details anyway. They can be funny, scathing, pointless, bittersweet. And these details, thoughtfully picked up, when put together, produce a sense of harsh displacement that wanes, and wanes, and further wanes until the inevitable revelation. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Wonderfully written. "The Gathering" explores the non-reality of our own memories. What part of our childhood memories are real and what part are embellishments? How does the knowledge gained in adulthood affect the tragedies we think we remember from childhood? How responsible are we for acting on what we believe we remember, and if failing to act brings about true tragedy, how guilty are we? These are all questions probed by this story of a sister and her inability to confront her family with horrible childhood memories.

The great feature of this novel is that is never comes out and hits you over the head with those questions. It lets the questions quietly creep into your brain and the story slowly unravels itself. Brilliant.

The only part that makes me hesitate in giving it 5 stars is that the ending lacked a real sense of finality. The characters drifted off the page and the story came to an end, which I suppose mimics life, but as a reader I want a strong ending to give me the feeling of accomplishment in finishing a book. This didn't have it. But otherwise a wonderful look into the interaction of memory and family. ( )
  sbloom42 | May 21, 2014 |
Winner of the 2007 Booker Prize, Anne Enright’s The Gathering follows Irish woman Veronica Hegarty in the aftermath of her brother Liam’s suicide. As she travels to England to retrieve his body and bring it back to Dublin for burial, and braces herself for the wake which will see the drunken, bickering Hegarty clan reunited, she slowly begins to think about the past, and why her brother became a suicidal wreck. As the blurb puts it: “It wasn’t the drink that killed him – although that certainly helped – it was what happened to him as a boy in his grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968.” (It’s exactly what you think it is.)

The Gathering slots neatly into the Booker-bait category of “depressed person looks back on a life of regrets,” a template particularly popular among novelists from the British Isles (see also: The Sea, The Sense of an Ending.) I liked it a bit better than The Sense of an Ending, and a lot more than The Sea, but it was still a fairly dull affair. Enright is a decent enough writer when it comes to prose style, and there are some good scenes and visual images throughout the book. But in the end I simply couldn’t bring myself to care about this miserable woman from a family of jerks. I’m afraid I don’t have much more to say about this one. ( )
1 vote edgeworth | Oct 14, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
At its best Enright's prose style is excitingly original, a blend of defensive social satire with extreme precision in evoking sounds, smells, and atmosphere and a great ability to make rapid and telling transitions from past to present, concrete to abstract, narrative to reflection. However, these qualities emerge for the most part in sections peripheral to the main story.... When, on the other hand, she slides into melodrama and literary formula, The Gathering does indeed sound like at least nine other writers and by no means the best.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Tim Parks (pay site) (Apr 17, 2008)
 
Her prose often ravishes and sometimes repels: reading her can be like staring into the lustrous surface of a lake, trying to discern the dangers lurking beneath. . . Bringing together the skills she has honed along the way, Enright carries off her illusions without props or dei ex machina, bravely engaging with the carnival horrors of everyday life.
 
added by lucyknows | editscis (pay site)
 

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Anne Enrightprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Verhagen, PietTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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. I need to bear witness to an uncertain event. I feel it roaring inside me--this thing that may not have taken place. I don't even know what name to put on it. I think you might call it a crime of the flesh, but the flesh is long fallen away and I am not sure what hurt may linger in the bones.
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…I was living my life in inverted commas. I could pick up my keys and go ‘home’ where I could ‘have sex’ with my ‘husband’ just like lots of other people did. That is what I had been doing for years. And I didn’t seem to mind the inverted commas, or even notice that I was living in them, until my brother died.
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This is The Gathering by Anne Enright. It should not be combined with The Gathering by Joseph Lidster.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802170390, Paperback)

Amazon Significant Seven, November 2007: Pretty early on in The Gathering you realize that in her lingering portrait of the Hegarty clan (and this isn't hyperbole--they are a family of 12), Irish novelist Anne Enright will wrestle with all the giant literary tropes that have come before her. Family, of course, is the big one, but with equal intensity she explores death and dying, the sea and its siren song, sex, shame, secrecy, unreliable memories, madness, "the drink," and--always in the shadows--England. That said, it's not like any other novel about the Irish that I've read. The story of the Hegartys is indeed bleak, and hard, but it surges with tenderness and eloquent thought which, in the end, are the very things that help this family (or at least her narrator Veronica) survive. Through her eyes, and in Enright's skillful imagination, those small turning-point moments of life that we all know in some form or another--a petty fight, a careless word, an event witnessed--come together in an unshakeable vision of how you become the person you are. --Anne Bartholomew

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:00 -0400)

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As nine members of the Hegarty clan gather for the wake of their drowned brother Liam, his sister Veronica remembers the secret he shared with her about what happened in their grandmother's house thirty years ago, a betrayal that spans three generations. "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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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