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The Gathering (2007)

by Anne Enright

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4,0002052,897 (3.07)439
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.

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English (191)  Dutch (5)  German (3)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (204)
Showing 1-5 of 191 (next | show all)
Gathering. It is what friends and family and colleagues and sometimes even strangers do when someone dies. As an aside, I just attended my very first virtual funeral (a Doom Zoom, we are calling it).
In Elizabeth Enright's Gathering, what is left of a very large family gather to say goodbye to Liam: a son, a brother, an uncle, a beloved who has committed suicide by drowning off the coast of England. Separated in age by a little over a year, sister Veronica Hegerty is Liam's nearest and dearest sibling and more his twin in every sense. It is her responsibility to collect the body and hold the gathering. She tells Liam's story through a series of childhood flashbacks and present-day adult manic musings. Growing up with Liam was a mixture of deep seated secrets and innocence lost. Veronica spends her time trying to puzzle the clues and remembering the memories. Here's what we all do when someone close to us commits suicide: we sift through the ashes of a life burnt out, searching for clues to why they left us; trying to answer the questions of Is it our fault? Did we set the fire? What could we have done differently to save them? (To quote Natalie Merchant, "It was such a nightmare raving how can we save him from himself?" Are you surprised I went there? How could I not?) As for her adult issues, thirty-nine year old Veronica wrestles with problems with her marriage, confused by subliminal hang-ups about sex. She has inner demons that have haunted her since childhood. I honestly can't say how well I enjoyed The Gathering. It did leave me thinking of the characters for a long time afterwards, so there's that. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Oct 13, 2023 |
It's been said that Sigmund Freud said of the Irish "This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever."
After reading the Gathering you can begin to understand why. The Irish seem to be haunted not only by guilt and shame, but by the ghosts of their dead relatives as well. Here's a particularly telling passage from the novel :

" I know I sound bitter, and Christ I wish I wasn't such a hard bitch sometimes, but my brother blamed me for twenty years or more. He blamed me for my nice house, with the nice white paint on the walls, and the nice daughters in their bedrooms of nice lilac and nicer pink. He blamed me for my golf loving husband, though God knows it is many years since Tom had free time for a round of golf. He treated me like I was selling out on something, though on what I do not know-- because Liam did not allow dreams either, of course. My brother had strong ideas about justice, but he was unkind to every single person who tried to love him; mostly, and especially, to every woman he ever slept with, and still after a lifetime of spreading hurt around, he managed to blame me. And I managed to feel guilty. Now why is that ?
This is what shame does. This is the anatomy and mechanism of a family--a whole fucking country--drowning in shame."

Being of Irish decent myself I can safely say Yeah, that's the Irish for you. ( )
  kevinkevbo | Jul 14, 2023 |
I thought it was very well written and interesting writing in the way that it was sort of free form thought on paper, but it was way too depressing for me to continue reading until the end. ( )
  MammaP | May 30, 2023 |
Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2007, this is a book I should have put aside, and not completed. It was too depressing, as usual for most books I've read with the characters where the setting is Ireland. Make no doubt about it Liam is dead, a suicide? The story is told from the perspective of his sister. Bonded together in childhood, Liam drifted into a life of alcohol, and thus they drifted apart.

There are nine surviving children. The way in which their births are depicted is in a matter of fact, here comes yet another child, manner. And now, as the remaining people in the family gather together, there is a story to tell of Liam. Many more questions than answers are posited throughout.

I simply didn't like the book. By the time I really didn't want to continue, I had invested hours reading, and I wanted to see some redemption. I should have known better.

There were way too many pages consumed with the description of body parts, and way too much sex that I didn't think added to the story. There were too many vivid descriptions of coupling, genitalia, and downright depression.

I'll agree to disagree with those who found this a good book.

I am sure many liked this book, but I am not one of them.
  Whisper1 | Mar 4, 2023 |
Set mostly in Ireland this book is a family saga of memories and grief. Protagonist Veronica is on her way to collect the body of her brother, Liam, who has died by suicide. She reflects on her childhood when she and Liam were sent to live with her grandmother. She relives a dark memory and wonders if she recalls it correctly. She wonders how much it may have contributed to her brother’s suicide. There is no plot, as such – it follows a person working through grief and its impact on her own life.

As may be expected in a book centered around a suicide, this novel is sad. The tone is somber and reflective. I would not recommend it for anyone recently bereaved or suffering from depression. Though the content is not what I normally prefer to read, I admire the writing style. I had previously read Enright’s The Green Road, which is a similar sad book about a large Irish family gathering. I would love to see what the author could do with more uplifting material.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 191 (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)

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Enright, Anneprimary 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.
…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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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.

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