The Gathering – Anne Enright

The Gathering - Anne Enright

Between reading The Gathering and watching “Blue Valentine” yesterday, I think I’ve become a great ball of trauma.  Plus, I’m wearing a simple, little jumper and my boss has the air conditioning cranked to the arctic in here.  These are just a few of my countless, trivial problems with today that are hindering me from even starting this review.

But I am going to battle through for the sake of Anne Enright, and all the Irish potato’s she must eat in a year.

Anne Enright has been one of my favorite authors since I finished Yesterday’s Weather, which is a collection of short-short stories.  I’m not going to lie, the book took me about two years to read.  Usually, books take me between a few days to a week depending on their size (pages), but this book was so dense, and so packed with these ridiculous little insights into the soul that it took me a damn long time.  And after I was done, I had hoarded all of Targets arrow sticky notes in rainbow colors to mark all of my favorite quotes (which is two on almost every page).  This was about a year ago.  Why it took me so long to find The Gathering and dive in, well, I’m cheap and I waited for it to go on the dollar shelf at the used bookstore.  No, Man Booker book should ever be on the dollar shelf, I’m against this in every way, but my lean-left moral compass makes me cheap, and selfish.  (But patient, for the first time in my life, patient).  I literally stalked the book making sure no one had picked it up the week before, or moved its shelves so that people were confused that it was in the biological science section and yet, looked so much like a fiction book with its beach and shadow covers.  Yes, I’m that person.  I also turn over every Jodi Picoult book when I enter a bookstore so that people stop buying her factory-worker fiction (I mean seriously, the woman pops out books like a hundred children in China are writing them, one a month).

I’m off on a tangent.

This book didn’t actually disappoint me.  Even though it has some really strong disgusted reviews floating out there and lots of people are quite angry that it won the Godly, Man Booker.  But honestly people, Anne Enright deserves this.  And you know why, there’s just one simple reason; she can make any description into sex.  Seriously, if I write a book, I really think I would write it just like Enright because all of her descriptions somehow end up sexual in nature.  And their disturbing and terrifying while being electrically beautiful.

With all that said, I suppose I should give you a synopsis:

The Gathering is in the voice of Veronica, a sibling, literally that is her main role in the story, a wife and mother.  She is telling a few dual stories at once.  The first is the story of her grandmother and the man she did not marry.  This has been really off-putting to a lot of people because why bring the reader on a journey when in the end the people aren’t for each other.  To you readers, you happy-ending-mongrels, I say, watch “Blue Valentine,” or read this book.

The second story is the story of her brother, who has just committed suicide and thus why we, this large family, and a handful of odd people are gathered here today.  Hence the title.  Veronica is both trying to figure out the cause and effect of her brother’s suicide while also letting her marriage sort of die with the coming winter, and unraveling her self, and childhood slowly.

It’s beautifully, beautifully, beautifully written.  It makes me want to eat my own hand, it’s so beautiful.   And not in that annoying, too-descriptive, this whole novel is one giant poem, sort of way.  But in the way that everything makes complete sense.  Of course skin shines under floorboards when it dies and is shaven off the body.  Of course, it does.  Duh, where have I been my whole life that I haven’t discovered this simple image.  That’s how I feel when I read Anne Enright.

While I know a lot of people don’t read short stories, I highly recommend Yesterday’s Weather (it has an interesting cover even, if you’re into that) and I also highly recommend The Gathering because it’s the big girl version of a novel, with lots of sex (but not the grocery store romance, man bareback on a horse kind) more like the dysfunctional, disturbing romance of a family.

The last thing I want to say, before I dive into the endless quotes I could post from this book, is that I really recommend this book be read aloud.  Normally, I wouldn’t really say this.  I actually quite dislike audio books (unless it’s a children’s book or Harry Potter series because they do the voices so dang well – don’t ya think)?  It’s just that when I read it out-loud (in the comfy patio chairs of my brothers back deck) I felt alive.  That sounds corny, I know, I know, but just try reading your favorite imagistic and descriptive book aloud and then you’ll understand.  Even if you don’t like hearing your own voice, you will and you can.  Stop listening to it on your answering machine and listen to it reading a stellar novel or a brilliant short story.

So, as always, here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • “History is such a romantic place, with its jarveys and urchins and side-button boots.” – (13) Enright, The Gathering
  • “Each time you fall in love it is important, even at nineteen.  Especially at nineteen.  And if you can, at nineteen, count the people you love on one hand, you will not, at forty, have run out of fingers on the other.  There are so few people given us to love and they all stick.” (15)
  • “You know everything at eight, but it is hidden from you, sealed up, in a way you have to cut yourself open to find.” (147)
  • “And I know something frightening still-that we didn’t have to be damaged by him in order to be damaged.  It was the air he breathed that did for us.  It was the way were obliged to breathe his second-hand air.” (224)
One last thing I want to talk about as regards to this book is the idea in Ireland that pregnant women should not go to graveyards.  I got really hung up on this because among my many sick qualities, going to grave yards and photographing and writing is one of my all-time favorite past times.  The old saying/superstition is cam reilige which is the idea that if a pregnant woman visits a graveyard the cam reilige will cause a malformation in her womb.  While google didn’t help me find anything about this, I am totally interested in Irish folklore, superstition (the freckles on my face and easily roasted skin will tell you so).  So, please let me know if you have any way of finding out more about this.
And then, as always, once again, blogs with other reviews in case you didn’t enjoy this one:
I just love how she sits with her hands in her lap, like a lady.

6 thoughts on “The Gathering – Anne Enright

  1. Kimberly says:

    I finally read this book. I ‘liked’ the post months ago, which is what made me buy the book in the first place. (Although, like you, I waited for it to become discounted.) This is another book that you have recommended and I have loved. Thank you!

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