The Gathering

by Anne Enright

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Featured image for The Gathering

I picked this book up to read while travelling thinking that short chapters in a not terribly thick book would make for a quick and easy read. Remind me not to make that mistake again! I knew that the book involved a big Irish Catholic family and was rather expecting a more literary version of a Maeve Binchy saga. Mostly I think I was expecting to enjoy it more than I did.

The story flits around from present to past as Veronica recounts episodes and anecdotes from her childhood mostly featuring her newly deceased brother Liam and her grandmother Ada. Until I sat down to read a big chunk of it rather than a few pages at a time I wasn’t getting on with the story at all. It’s another book, like Darkmans, that makes me think of jigsaw puzzles though, unlike Darkmans, this time I had a fairly good idea which bits had straight edges and could tell the sky from the sea.

My problem was that although by the end the pieces had pretty much fallen into place - I didn’t find the overall picture that satisfying. I wonder if I’d feel differently about it if I’d read it through in one session rather than dragging it out over a week. I didn’t feel that the narrator had learnt much or changed at all from the first page to the last. I closed the book feeling very “huh?” for want of a better explanation.

(I should probably add, for the benefit of my future self if no one else, as I feel like I’m being a bit harsh, that this book is on the Booker Prize longlist so I’m probably judging it by different standards than a random library book.)