The Gathering by Anne Enright
Published: 2008 by Vintage Books
I purchased this book in 2009 while visiting Dublin (and thus is one of my selections for the 2011 TBR Pile Challenge). Despite it being awarded the Booker Prize in 2007, I had not heard of it, but since it’s an Irish novel and I was in Ireland, I picked it up.
The back cover synopsis interested me as well:
The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan gather in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother Liam. 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
The Gathering is a novel about love and disappointment, about thwarted lust and limitless desire, and how our fate is written in the body, not in the stars
After reading the novel, I find that this blurb is very misleading (but, hey, it did its job and got me to buy the book).
The primary voice of the novel is Veronica, Liam’s younger sister and his closest sibling (chronologically and emotionally). While there is a wake for Liam and there is a revelation of what happened to him at his grandmother’s house, these points of the story to me seemed secondary. Veronica is the main character.
Veronica is the one to break the news of Liam’s death to her mother. Veronica travels to England to claim his body and return it to Ireland. As she goes about these solemn duties, she is remembering her brother and the good and bad times; remembering the incident at her grandmother’s house (which, by the way, though tragic, did not seem to be enough to affect Liam so dramatically) and visualizing the life of her grandmother as a young woman, all the while realizing that her marriage is in trouble.
I have to say that I did not like this book; partly because it wasn’t what I expected, but also because I couldn’t like any of the characters. I couldn’t feel sorry for Liam, there wasn’t much to Veronica even though she dominates the novel, and there weren’t any aspects to anyone else to draw attention.
Another disappointing impulse purchase. I wish I could say that I’ve learned my lesson, but we all know otherwise……
Have you read this novel? What were your thoughts on it?