Friday, November 09, 2007

The Gathering

At the moment I'm juggling two books--Robinson Crusoe and Identical Strangers, a memoir written by twins separated at birth that I received back in the summer through the Library Thing Early Reviewers giveaway. Eliot has been set aside until the weekend. I'm happy to finally be reading the Defoe because it means I'll be able to read books by Muriel Spark and J.M. Coetzee that are riffs off of that novel--yes, I'm already thinking ahead to what I can read next year.

Started and finished earlier in the week was Anne Enright's The Gathering, a book I knew I wanted to read as soon as I heard it was about a sibling's suicide (been there, done that, still picking the scabs), although I'd been a bit hesitant to start since it was about an Irish sibling (kind of also done the Irish bit with a cousin from Dublin who lived with us and shared my room through most of high school).

Enright's writing won me over so quickly, though, that I was itching to get online to add her books to my wishlist before I was a scant dozen pages into the book (I'll post quotes in a day or so, have no fear). I'll be having an Enright spree most definitely just as soon as the Reading From the Stacks challenge is over--two are already in the university library, thank goodness; I'll be able to snatch them up on Feb. 1. Her first collection of short stories is out-of-print and very expensive. I hope it'll be reissued now that she's won the Booker, but in the meantime, there's always ILL.

Enright is brilliant. She tells the story in the voice of an angry, bitter woman capable of the darkest humor and the most unreliable of narrations. Veronica's responsible for identifying the corpse and bringing back from Brighton the remains of her drowned brother. She's also footing the bill for the funeral and coffin; that's how close she was to Liam. She believes his problems started the year they and their younger sister Kitty (there were 12 Hegarty children if you count Stevie, "the little angel in heaven") were sent to stay with her grandparents (her mother may have been experiencing a breakdown). While there, either Liam or possibly Veronica herself fell prey to the sexual advances of her grandparents' landlord. Veronica is not exactly sure which of these memories is the true one, especially since imagining horrible things is her strong suit. And imagine she does, delving desperately into her grandmother's past as a way of understanding why such a woman would allow such a man to have access to the children, while Veronica's own unhappy life, with husband and lovely young daughters (although, as Liam has told her, "Pity about the teeth" on one of the girls), reaches a critical point of its own.

I do believe this one may wind up in top position in my favorite books list at the end of December.


  1. I want to read this and have it sitting at home by my bed. At the rate I am starting books (and at the much slower rate that I am finishing them), I'll soon have 20 books on the go at once. Still, I want to start it. It grabs you from the first paragraph, doesn't it!

  2. Oh yes.

    This one wouldn't take long. You could read it start to finish over the weekend and then return to the others. :)

  3. It's funny (to me) how newspapers can describe those prize winning books in the most boring, just-another-bleak-"literary"-book terms imaginable, and then you get the book, try a line or two, and are completely blown away. That was my reaction to the Enright book. I'm glad I managed to get a copy (though I haven't read it yet). Those Irish writers are something.

  4. Heh. You know, when I was working at the polls on Tuesday and co-workers asked what the book was about, I told 'em it has just won the Booker, and was beautiful but bleak. Otherwise they'd have asked what it was about and then their next question would have been Why do you want to read about THAT?!?! and then they're recommending Nicholas Sparks to me and I have to feign enough interest that their feelings aren't hurt.

  5. Hahahahaha! Sigh. It's funny because it's true. Usually people assume I must be reading it for class because what other possible reason could I have for spending time on it? For a long time even one of the used book store proprietors assumed I was an English major.

  6. I had never heard of Anne Enright before she won the Booker. The Gathering sounds great--bleak and literary never puts me off, unless it's also post-apocalyptic also--it's going directly onto my list. Thanks!

  7. I recently read a review of this and am interested in reading it, too. I think the Booker Prize usually manages to pick a better book than the Pulitzer does.
    But first, I'm curious how you manage to read so much. Are you in a reading group? I looked down at your list and you've read over 50 books this year. How do you manage that?
    Just curious.

  8. I don't know, Sarah. I know some people who'd say I read all the time, but there are days when I don't even open a book. I even feel guilty sometimes because I know I'm wasting time that could be put to good use reading (or exercising, or cleaning hourse, or solving the world's problems. . .). I guess I'm fortunate in that I work only part-time, in a library where I can safely read without getting myself into trouble when things are slow, and I don't watch a lot of TV or movies. And there are plenty of book bloggers who read double or three times as much as I do!

  9. Oh, and Gentle Reader, I do post-apocalyptic bleak very well! Hmmm, I should try to come up with a list of books that were too bleak even for me. I know there have been a few. . .


"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.