By Anne Enright
Completed July 7, 2008
In The Gathering, Anne Enright took a disturbing look at family dysfunction. Told from the perspective of Veronica, a 39-year-old homemaker, the readers learned the ups and downs of being part of her large Irish family, made more complicated as the family dealt with the suicide of Veronica’s brother, Liam.
Veronica’s ghosts were a large part of this novel. Veronica was the keeper of Liam’s childhood secret, and as she grieved for her brother, she had to come to terms with the tragedies that plagued him. She also had to deal with her life decisions: hiding Liam’s secret, marrying her husband, mothering her daughters, and coping with her own mother, who Veronica loved and despised simultaneously.
Enright’s writing style was seductively descriptive. I envisioned the deeply depressed Veronica spiraling out of control, frantically typing her family’s life story as she drank and escaped from her obligations. She was not an easy character to like, but Enright’s writing evoked sympathy and sadness for this character.
In addition to the manic narrative, the reader must muddle through the many phallic references and sexual metaphors that sprung up (no pun intended) in each chapter. I can’t say these themes added to the novel, but they did not appall me either. Perhaps I was too wrapped up in Veronica’s train wreck to care.
All in all, The Gathering was a decent story about being a family member and how one woman dealt with her depression in the face of a family tragedy. If you like stories set in Ireland or are a fan of Booker winners, then I would recommend The Gathering to you.