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The Gathering [Paperback]

Anne Enright
2.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a complicated book Dec 26 2007
One that requires more than one reading with which to fully come to grips. There's a lot going on here, about family, about the ties that bind, about the fact we can never escape the past. Everyone will not like this book, it's too grim and rambling and unfocussed for that, but I did. The story, which is set in Dublin, revolves around Veronica Hegarty, a 30-something wife and mother, who has escaped the clutches of her huge Irish Catholic family She has eight siblings and suffers hardships when her brother, Liam, kills himself. Closest to him in age, Veronica is the one who must pick up the pieces and bring back his body from England, where he drowned himself off Brighton Beach.

The first-person narrative is told in a stream-of-consciousness manner from Veronica's perspective. She flits backwards and forwards in time, exploring her family's dark history. She goes as far back as her grandparent's generation as she tries to unravel the story. During the course of the book, which spans Liam's death through to his funeral, Veronica traces the history of the family. But through this we glimpse Veronica's obsessions and see how her personality has been slightly damaged by her rough-and-tumble crowded childhood. Her pain and her anguish is never expressed to the outside world (she cannot even communicate with her husband), but is buried deep inside where it finds expression in Veronica's self-loathing. If nothing else, The Gathering is a portrait of a lost woman coming to grips with her past, her present and her future.

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "All I have are stories'" July 30 2008
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
. . . writes Veronica, the narrator of this unusual family saga, in the opening pages, ... "night thoughts, the sudden convictions, that uncertainty spawns." It will be important for us, the readers, to keep this in mind as we get increasingly drawn into Anne Enright's award-winning novel. While it is a family saga of sorts, it is much more a psychological study of a woman in crisis. Written in a straightforward, sometimes witty, conversational tone which later may sometimes prove deceiving, Veronica's thoughts and ruminations move in apparently haphazard fashion from her childhood experiences in the 1960s to the present. The present being some months after the funeral of her brother which brought her together with the rest of the Hegarty clan.

Veronica's crisis centres on Liam, her favourite brother who has died in untoward circumstances. She wants to tell his story, yet finds it difficult to come to terms with who he has become since their intimate childhood years. Did his troubled life commence with an event she recalls observing when she was nine and he eleven at their gran's? Did it actually happen or is her memory playing tricks? Did something happen to her too at that time? In her reminiscences of that carefree long summer holiday with Liam and younger sister Kitty at their grandmother's, a dark cloud was hanging over them. Enright contrasts this special summer with the usual life in the Hegarty family: "Mammy" always pregnant, the father rarely seen around the increasingly large family. Poverty is hinted at in many ways, without being overplayed. Among Vee's shorter or longer introductions of her large family, Ada, the grandmother, stands out as the most important character.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Uncovering of a Family's Secrets April 27 2008
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Enright is one of those writers who has made it her calling in life to understand the intergenerational complexities of the modern family institution. To do this, she writes about awkward and troubling familial relationships that encompass at least three generations. In her stories, it is usually one person who needs to know the answer to the inscrutable, and, invariably, it is that same individual who has to live with the answer. "The Gathering", her latest work, showcases the Hegartys as a modern dysfunctional family who has enormous difficulty coming to grips with its tainted past. Every member, from as far back as three generations, is in a state of denial, or doesn't care, or is constantly hung over or suffering from dementia. However, there is one important exception. The protagonist, Veronica, is a daughter who comes home to Dublin to bury her brother, Liam, who has just committed suicide near Brighton. Everything she encounters during this ordeal flies in the face of who she sees herself as: orderly, passive, submissive, normal and tidy. Her brother was one of those doomed personalities who soaked up a lot of affection from others but never gave anything in return. His mission in life was to destroy himself faster than kind-hearted people like Veronica could build him up. During the week of the wake, Veronica goes on a search to discover what caused Liam to become self-destructive. She fights through constant distractions and disruptions to find what has caused her extended family - the heart of her existence till now - to become unglued. What she discovers is a dissolution of a relationship that likely started years ago with Liam being sexually abused by a border living with the Hegartys. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Respectfully admit disliking this title.
Anne Enright is an award-winning Irish author and I reluctantly stoop to my first one-star result. Unfavourable reactions don't mean there's no talent, as I remarked about two... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Carolyn
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time
260 pages of blah, blah, blah.

I am not a huge fan of the Nothing Happens literary genre, but some such books, such as Bel Canto, are well-written and compelling. Read more
Published on Nov. 3 2010 by L. J. Jackson
1.0 out of 5 stars LACKING
HAVE JUST FINISHED THIS BOOK TO PRESENT AT BOOK GROUP. There is no doubt the writing is very skilled and I repect the right of the author to write what moves her at that moment,... Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2009 by NTS book club B
2.0 out of 5 stars The gathering of dispersive thoughts
`The Gathering' happens because Liam Hegarty dies suddenly. Through the words of his beloved sister Veronica who collects his body and organizes the funeral, we learn the tale of... Read more
Published on Nov. 14 2008 by I LOVE BOOKS
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time
Considering all the rave reviews and prizes this book has received, I was expecting great things when it was lent to me by a friend. I was in for a big disappointment! Read more
Published on Sept. 24 2008 by Bethann McLaren
1.0 out of 5 stars Great for a university class, but not for the beach
This book is more suitable for a university class, but as something to bring with you on the beach, STAY AWAY. Long, difficult and pointless, I wouldn't recommend this book.
Published on Sept. 15 2008 by F. Laforge
4.0 out of 5 stars An Engaging Narrator Takes You to Liam's Wake While Shrouding the Past...
When a book has won a prestigious prize like the Man Booker, readers feel a double challenge: Appreciate the book for what it is and try to figure out what attracted the award... Read more
Published on June 11 2008 by Donald Mitchell
1.0 out of 5 stars Impossible to follow
I have tried to follow the story-line of this novel but am at a loss to figure out where she is going with it. I read a chapter, get upset and put it down. Read more
Published on March 8 2008 by Claudia Wright
1.0 out of 5 stars Truly stinko
The structure of the book is denser than Proust, and more textured than James Joyce's Ulysses, if that is intellectually possible. Yet, the author's reach exceeds her grasp. Read more
Published on Dec 25 2007 by Patricia E. Phenix
1.0 out of 5 stars SUCKS
I am sorry but if ever there was a book that I wanted a refund for... this was the one!
Scattered and confusing... Read more
Published on Nov. 17 2007 by Sara Ellen Murray
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