The Booksnob’s Blog

Books… the best, worst, & weirdest…

The Gathering by Anne Enright

thegathering.jpg Winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, Enright’s novel received glowing reviews from literary heavyweights such as The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement.  A review in The Scotsman, quoted on the cover blurb, states, accurately, that Enright’s protaganist, Veronica Hegarty, is “so fully realized that the words simply melt into pictures and moods”.

However, I find it a difficult book to review, as it is at once both bleak and intensely lyrical. The death of a sibling unleashes a stream of memories, some real and some imagined, of Veronica’s early years in a large Irish family. Enright documents her underworld journey into a form of temporary madness engendered by grief, with the hope of redemption and the form it might take still dangling at the work’s end. While she is a consummate writer and the novel is engrossing, it is not one I wish to read again in a hurry. 

However I am probably being unfair, as for me any Booker Prize winner has to measure up to Kerry Hulme’s The Bone People (1985) – described at the time as “frankly unreadable” by a critic whose name I can no longer remember, and more accurately, as “beautiful and terrible… tender and cruel… dream and reality… poetry and crudity… infinitely simple and infinitely complex” by The New Zealand Herald. A very big ask, as a novel of the stature of The Bone People occurs only once in a generation, and everything else tends to pale in comparison.

The Gathering is published by Jonathan Cape (UK) & Black Cat (USA), 2007

The Gathering (LibraryThing)


December 4, 2007 - Posted by | Fiction | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I agree with you about both books. I was excited to get my hands on The Gathering. Halfway through, I couldn’t wait to finish wading through a dull story. (It’s rare for me to stop reading). The lyricism was fine, but the storyline itself was irritating. One critic wrote about the ‘shock revelation’ that clarifies all the issues raised in the story–I think most readers can see what’s coming and the revelation doesn’t clarify anything.
    And yes, Bone People–talk about immersing the reader in a strange and compelling world.

    Comment by Marsha | January 26, 2008 | Reply

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