Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Gathering

Of the shortlisted titles for last year's Booker Prize, I read two of the titles and disliked them both, so when I had to read The Gathering by Anne Enright (which won the Prize) for a book discussion, I was not looking forward to it. I expected that I would not like this one either. And I didn't. At first. It's really hard to describe what this book is about. On a very basic level, the book is about a large Irish family of 12 children. When one of the siblings, Liam, commits suicide, his sister Veronica must handle the arrangements for his funeral. The story is narrated by Veronica, who is struggling to remember and make sense of events that happened when she and Liam were children, which she believes were the catalyst for his subsequent alcoholism and suicide. Plotwise, nothing much really happens. But the language is absolutely amazing. Enright crafts beautiful sentences. Much of the book is about memories-trying to remember events, or imagine what might have happened, and making sense of memories. Veronica has difficulty remembering her sister's face as a child, and she says we don't "remember our family in any real sense. We live in them," which I thought was beautiful. Veronica's struggle with her memories, her brother's death and her current difficulties with her husband make her a very complex character, and although the plot is quite slow, there is much to think about when reading this novel. I'm definitely glad I read this, and think it probably deserves a second reading.

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