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The Gathering Paperback – September 10, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
I expected to loveloveLOVE this book. I adore books about multi-generational family dysfunction, and I'm a total sucker for evocative locales. This book covers a large Irish family from the 1920s to the current day. The plot is driven by funeral arrangements for the family's black sheep, who has committed suicide. The writing is lovely. It is almost impossible for me to dislike a book that contains so many fascinating elements. Sadly, however, "The Gathering" is that book.
This is not to say the it's a total loss. What Enright can do, she does well. For instance, she perfectly captures the strange and malleable thing that is childhood memory. I found myself nodding along as the main character, Veronica, describes her grandparent's house and various members of the extended family through eight-year-old eyes. Enright clearly wants to convey the uncertainty of memory and she succeeds. Veronica vividly remembers events that may or may not have occurred, or perhaps involved her siblings rather than herself. Additionally, her prose is beautiful. You'll be struck more than once by a sentence that's horrible, gorgeous, brilliant, and despairing all at once.
At the same time, I agree with all the criticisms levelled here. The book jumps haphazardly from the present to the past, and if that wasn't bad enough, it's often unclear whether it's all a figment of Veronica's imagination. I think Enright wanted to intensify the sense of uncertainty around the stories we tell to make sense of our family history. She uses a heavy hand, and the end result is a confused mess.Read more ›
The Gathering is a little bit of the opposite experience. As I read, I was not at all sure what it was that I was supposed to be reading. It is fairly difficult to access, and not terribly forgiving of lapsed attention. Mostly I found myself saying to myself: "Why? Why did this win the Man Booker Prize?" But then somewhere towards the end, Enright pulls a magic trick. The book wraps itself up somehow, and is at once something shining. Something, dare I say it, which would like to fly. But still, I was not really sure that this was enough. It came so late in the book and what came before that moment was so leaden, I was not sure what I wanted to think. I mean, what I wanted to think about the overall experience.
Given time, the experience of reading the book has settled a little bit. I find that instead of growing more distant, I actually feel closer to the novel. I like it more. I have the impulse to buy another book by Enright. I am willing to forgive The Gathering its sharp edges and elbows.
And boy oh boy does this book have sharp elbows. It is a bitter little pill of a novel. Just like its main character, it resists sympathy and identification. Enright uses fantasy, disjointed narrative, unpleasant people doing unpleasant things-- pretty much every device that you can imagine to force the reader back outside the text. It makes for such a strange combination because she writes with such lyrical prose and such a delicate hand that you expect to find the book yielding. The contrast is very interesting, but in the end I am not sure how successful The Gathering really is-- largely for that reason.Read more ›
Firstly, let me very briefly summarize the plot: the book revolves around the life of one of the nine surviving children of an Irish family, her reminiscences (real and imaginary) of her life and those of her family, and in particular her recently deceased brother. The "dysfunctional family story" which has been much bandied by a number of people is not strictly true, because this is really the woman's story, with the family naturally taking a prominent position given their size and range of "experiences".
The positives first then: Enright really does seem to have a "fresh" style of writing - I got hooked into the book right away, and read the first third at one quick go. Very surprisingly though, the freshness goes stale very quickly, and I found it genuinely tedious to go through the rest of the book. But we were talking of positives here, so let's get back there: the book is littered with some stylistic gems, such as the one quoted by another reviewer here: "All our parents were mad in those days. There was something about just the smell of us growing up that drove them completely insane." Enright, when she chooses to, can create really well defined characters, such as the protagonist, whose nuances - physical, mental, and emotional, are beautifully unveiled through her thoughts and actions.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I don't really know what the writer intends with this book, the main character is constantly changing her mind about her feelings for those who surround her. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Yngwie
I was hoping for so much with this book, but sadly I have to say that it is probably the most depressing book I have ever read. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Wendy Cooke-Tonnesen
At first I was very put off by the book because I was lost. I didn't know what had to do with what. Read morePublished 1 month ago by phyllis
Very dark depressing story about a dysfunctional family. The prose was often very hard to follow as well as the timeline of the story as writtenPublished 2 months ago by Karen K Schilling
Really a 4.5...took a little to get into it..writing is wonderful....but a bit of a fragmented timeline....a terrific well written read.. Read morePublished 2 months ago by A.K.
The appeal of this work by Enright is dependent entirely on the interests and disposition of the reader. It is thoughtful, layered, sincere and a great bore of a story. Read morePublished 3 months ago by mrthinkndrink
This is a tale of many strands, of young people emerging into the world just like the young Irish Republic emerged into the world early in the twentieth century, of a world in... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Guillaume Boisset