What is it with my problem with Man Booker Award winners? The last one I remember is White Tiger, which we read in our Kuwait book group, and I hated. Actually, it was the main character I hated . . . and possibly that is what is happening with me and The Gathering, now that I think about it.
We meet Veronica, Irish, from a large Irish family, as she learns of the death of her brother Liam. Through claiming the body, preparing for the funeral, the funeral and the aftermath, we are there with Veronica as she whines and complains, as she disparages her family members while ignoring her own husband and family, and she drinks too much. She gets up at noon, and stays up all night, avoiding her husband. Her language is frightful, and her sexual episodes are crude and explicit . . . offensive, but maybe it is the utter distraught nature of a woman in the throes of the deepest grief?
Slowly, slowly, the story unfolds. For me, I was never sure what was truth and what was imagination, in terms of the story. Were the children abused, molested, neglected? Or are these the creative imaginings of a troubled woman? There seems to be a thread of insanity in the family – can we trust that she is a reliable narrator?
As little as I liked the main character – hmmmm, that seems to be a problem I am having a lot right now, or at least I’ve had a run of main characters I don’t like very well – I finished this book. I’m glad I read it so that I can talk about it if it comes up in a discussion, but it did not inspire or elevate me in any way, and I didn’t even feel a lot of compassion for the narrator.