‘So many different people, and the stories their bodies held’.
The Green Road by Anne Enright, Pg.81
Over the Easter period I went on what can only be described as a reading binge which has, thankfully, sustained momentum ever since, though my ability to keep up to date with blogging about them is a constant struggle. From reading American Housewife over the space of a short plane journey, I sunk into Anne Enright’s latest, shortlisted Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction entry (which my dad just happened to own) over the Easter weekend and had the same experience of not being able to put the book down until I had read every last page!
Although I enjoyed The Green Road immensely – Enright has a knack for burrowing deep into and exposing the intricacies of familial ties of a particularly Irish nature – I couldn’t help but compare it to her Man Booker prize-winning novel, The Gathering, which I absolutely loved. However, in hindsight, I am still able to vividly remember the distinct and striking characters of the Madigan clan after almost two months. Told from the perspective of each family member in the third-person narrative, the plot of The Green Road – in a similar vein to The Gathering – centres around a family reunion.
Rosaleen – the omniscient matriarch whose influence pervades the characters’ lives whether they like it or not – is thinking of cashing in on the Irish property boom by selling the family home. A home that has begun to dwarf her since the Madigan clan gradually dispersed and her husband died. She guilts her children, who are scattered in different parts of the globe, to return once more for their final Christmas at home. For once, she succeeds in her quest.
‘Beauty, in glimpses and flashes, that is what the soul required. That was the drop of water on the tongue’.
The Green Road by Anne Enright, Pg.164
Split into different narrative viewpoints and certain intersections of life, The Green Road covers a period of twenty-five years. From the 12-year-old Hanna – the youngest of the Madigan family – being asked to fetch some medicine for her mother and remembering the earthy scent of her father; the eldest son, Dan, living a double-life during the AIDs crisis in the early 90s of New York; Constance – who is the only sibling to have stayed in their hometown – finally getting herself tested for breast cancer; to Emmet who is working as aid-relief in Africa, turning his back on all material comforts, the narrative time juts forward unceasingly and unapologetically. Despite the massive gaps in time and the missing years, Enright manages to create fully realised and believable characters. The switching of narrative viewpoints – although all told in the third-person – allows different revelations about each character and uncovers hidden rivalries. It feels as if we are privy to the secret workings of a family that underneath the polite exterior has held resentments lasting decades.
‘As they travelled towards home, the landscape accumulated in Dan like a silt of meaning that was disturbed by the line of a hedgerow or the sight of winter trees along a ridge. All at once, it was familiar. He knew this place. It was a secret he had carried inside him; a map of things he had known and lost, these half-glimpsed houses and stone walls, the fields of solid green’.
The Green Road by Anne Enright, Pg.203
Beautiful and dazzling, it was no surprise to me that Anne Enright’s The Green Road made it into the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist.