The Gathering by Anne Enright

I've been doing pretty well at ticking off the 30 Before 30's (should that have an apostrophe?) last week. The first to get ticked off was joining a book group. I know this isn't the coolest thing, but I am a little on the geeky side. Actually, who am I kidding, I'm a LOT on the geeky side. And, as the proud owner of an (almost completely useless) English Lit degree, I really miss talking about books.

Last month's book was 'The Gathering' by Anne Enright. It's a Booker winner, so I had high expectations, and it didn't disappoint. The book is narrated from the perspective of Veronica Hegarty, a woman who is coming to terms with the recent death of her brother Liam, and in the process is trying to piece together their family history.

Enright vividly describes the relationship between Veronica's grandparents, and their personal histories. It's all told from Veronica's perspective, so you're never quite sure what's real and what's been fabricated by Veronica's mind during her childhood. I loved the way that this was done, and it made me reflect on how little we really know about our own family histories.

Relationships in 'The Gathering' are extremely physical; you get the impression that the characters are connected by a physical bond, even when they don't want that to be the case. The parent-child relationships are especially poignant; Veronica's mother seems to be 'watered down'
by her 12 children, as though she has lost a sense of her own existence. Veronica's connection with her own children is incredibly powerful and remains in tact even as she becomes steadily disconnected from the rest of her life.

Having said all of that, I think it's a bit of a 'Marmite' book, because apart from one other person who loved it, everyone else in the book group hated it. If you're reading the book waiting for something big to happen, then you might be disappointed. 'The Gathering' is all about creating and exploring a mood, and charting Veronica's deeply personal emotional journey, as she tries to piece together exactly what has happened to her brother, and finds that the answer goes back generations.

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