Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Anne Enright: The Gathering

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.

September 21, 2011 - Posted by | Aging, Books, Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Interconnected, Ireland, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships


  1. I loved this book. It makes you think about what our world could be like if we lived in a society such as constructed in this book.

    Comment by simplyalisha | September 21, 2011 | Reply

  2. I am looking forward to read it. I would like to tell you that I liked white tiger !!!

    Comment by Hayfa Al Mughni | September 21, 2011 | Reply

  3. SimplyAlisha – you might be right and that might be part of my problem. To me, her family felt suffocating, there was so much going on. I’m glad to know you loved the book.

    Hayfa – LOL! You LIKED White Tiger! I didn’t know. I remember we had a really great discussion at the book club, but I really had to struggle to get through it. I found the main character creepy. So please tell me: what did you like about White Tiger?

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 22, 2011 | Reply

  4. 🙂 i remember you had a tough time with White Tiger! And now with this review or what you went through seems to be a similar response. So I think IMHO, mebe you feel strongly reactive when the character turns out to be intensely negative. You are not able to accept such a person even if he/she be a fictional one! 🙂 Or mebe not. Yes can understand, when you read a book and finish one you wouldn’t want to be filled with negativity suffusing you, which might seem to emanate from the book. So actually speaking maybe the author has been very effective with his/her writing, though positive vibes are always more welcome.
    This is just my take, airing out my thoughts! 🙂

    Comment by onlooker | September 25, 2011 | Reply

  5. Onlooker! You are exactly right! The author has been effective! And yes, there are some characters which become very real to me. Did you know many authors have fans who talk to them as if their characters are real, especially authors with series, like Harry Potter, or detectives?The readers get very emotionally involved and blame the author for character defects, or demise. Sometimes, it’s almost as if the characters achieve an independent existence!

    I remember with White Tiger, the man lied, cheated, stole and did whatever he had to – at first, just to survive, or so I thought. I made some allowances for him. As the book progressed, and he cheated his family and friends as well as his employers – and you know all the rest, which I don’t want to say or it might spoil it for others – I really didn’t like him.

    So you are right. To me, the character became very real. And so did the main character in The Gathering. The good thing is, I finished the book. I couldn’t even finish Mildred Pierce. (!) So I take your point. The author is effective. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 25, 2011 | Reply

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