My copy: mass market paperback
Purchased March 2008
from National Bookstore
Read: March 24, 2010
I am Gege, and I'm addicted to books. So books are my drugs. And if I may stretch that metaphor a little bit more, there are books that are uppers, and there are those which are downers.
Anne Enright's The Gathering is most definitely a downer. It's the kind of book that a teacher would impose on attention-challenged students to get back at them for sleeping in class. It's the kind of book you read when there's just too much excitement in your life and you need to slow down, relax to a stupor. Yes, I mean it's some kind of boring.
Which is not to say that Enright is not a good writer. She is. And she seems to know it and show it.
Enright writes with a self-indulgent consciousness of being a good word weaver. I sense her saying, "Watch me write; I'm good at it." She writes in a dreamy, lyrical tone; her narration of events hazy, lazy. Her characterization written in broad strokes, as if fogged by faulty memory, interrupted occasionally with surprising minutiae. Stream of consciousness narration blurs the novel's facts and the character's reflections; I can't tell when she's being literal or metaphorical. When she says in Chapter 4 that she walks through the dimness of their childhood rooms, touching nothing, she is actually walking through their physical home, but you know she's also referring to deeper meanings.
She writes here as the character of Veronica, who gives you glimpses of all the other characters, mostly her family, from two generations past up to present. Veronica is the 8th child of 12 in an Irish family, born by a mother made invisible, nebulous, lost, and insignificant by the identity that defines her -- the bearer of children. Nothing else but.
Veronica is the one who loved Liam most. Liam is the brother who died. And Veronica walks through the events in their lives that might explain why he lived a troubled life and died a baffling, tragic death.
Once in a while, I remember the TV show Brothers and Sisters, and the cast stands in as my visual peg for the book's characters as they gather, hence the title, to send Liam off. The novel is a heavy dose of family dysfunctions, sex, alcohol, and melancholia. In spots, beautiful, shocking, troubling. In spots, slow, languorous, lulling me to sleep.