Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone! In an attempt to increase my knowledge of Irish authors (as I have only read the, predominantly, male greats such as Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett) I am currently reading the Man Booker Prize winner of 2007, Anne Enright’s The Gathering. As someone who is half-Irish my interest in Ireland and its history has always had a strong presence in my life, yet I feel overwhelmingly under-read in Irish literature.
Enright’s The Gathering is an incredibly moving and haunting account of the Hegarty family who have been brought together by the death of their beloved son and brother, Liam. Set in Dublin and Brighton, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I could visualise the landscape from my own experiences. For example, the narrator, Veronica, who is closest to Liam in age and confidence, travels to Brighton to identify the body. She travels along the Southeastern line from London Bridge to Brighton, passing through many recognisable names, such as Hassocks and Three Bridges – a trip I have done countless times before, when I studied at the University of Sussex and lived in Brighton. I know this kind of example is probably only interesting to people who have had the same experience, but I find it a rare novelty when I can identify with the landscape in a novel.
There are some wonderful passages in Anne Enright’s The Gathering; so much more than I will be able to include in my review (when I finish the book), that I thought I would share some here. As the blurb states, Enright is ‘one of Ireland’s most singular voices’ so it is only appropriate to share some of the quotes from her most successful book on St Patrick’s Day!
‘There is something wonderful about a death, how everything shuts down, and all the ways you thought you were vital are not even vaguely important. Your husband can feed the kids, he can work the new oven, he can find the sausages in the fridge, after all. And his important meeting was not important, not in the slightest. And the girls will be picked up from school, and dropped off again in the morning. Your eldest daughter can remember her inhaler, and your youngest will take her gym kit with her, and it is just as you suspected – most of the stuff you do is just nagging and whining and picking up for people who are too lazy even to love you, even that, let alone find their own shoes under their own bed; people who turn and accuse you – scream at you sometimes – when they can only find one shoe’.
The Gathering, Anne Enright, Pg.27
‘I do not think we remember our family in any real sense. We live in them, instead’.
The Gathering, Anne Enright, Pg.66
‘This is what shame does. This is the anatomy and mechanism of a family – a whole f***ing country – drowning in shame’.
The Gathering, Anne Enright, Pg.168