Saturday, 5 April 2008

My Orange Prize Review #2 - The Gathering

Anne Enright's "The Gathering", winner of the Man Booker Prize 2007, is the story of Veronica’s unravelling and putting back together again, following the death of her brother Liam.

Set in Ireland, this is a story about blame and accountability. Veronica believes she knows what killed Liam, something that happened long ago when they were left behind in the care of their grandparents, by their recklessly procreating parents.

Veronica operates in a mode of constant self-examination and interrogation, trying to establish culpability for Liam’s death and her distress. The narrative is entirely from her perspective, but we never really know if she is a reliable witness. She trips in and out of fact and fancy, generating versions of truth before settling on the story that she is prepared to share with her surviving brothers and sisters.

It is a disarmingly honest account of a woman trying to know her own mind, and as such, I found Veronica easy to relate to. Although the story is supposed to be an explanation of Liam’s demise, I always felt that there was so much Veronica I never really got to know Liam or feel any sadness for his death. In that respect I feel slightly cheated.

The writing style is vivid and evocative without being overly flowery, and the way that Anne Enright incorporates dialogue tickles me in its sassiness.

Is this book likely to be my favourite from the shortlist? Probably not. But I was transported by it, which is what I look for in a good story. I’m going to move it up to 4th on my list on this basis, and I think it will definitely make the cut for the shortlist.

The Gathering is available in paperback in all good bookshops, including Amazon.

Other novels by Anne Enright include:
The Wig My Father Wore (1995)
What Are You Like? (2000)
The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (2002)

Updated predictions for the Orange Prize in order of which books I think I'm going to like best

1. Elif Shafak - The Bastard of Istanbul
2. Lauren Liebenberg - The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam
3. Dalia Sofer - The Septembers of Shiraz
4. Anne Enright - The Gathering
5. Gail Jones - Sorry
6. Linda Grant - The Clothes on Their Backs
7. Heather O'Neill - Lullabies for Little Criminals
8. Anita Amirrezvani - The Blood of Flowers
9. Nancy Huston - Fault Lines
10. Deborah Moggach - In The Dark
11. Rose Tremain - The Road Home
12. Patricia Wood - Lottery
13. Charlotte Mendelson - When We Were Bad
14. Carol Topolski - Monster Love
15. Anita Nair - Mistress
16. Stella Duffy - The Room of Lost Things
17. Sadie Jones - The Outcast
18. Jennifer Egan - The Keep
19. Scarlett Thomas - The End of Mr. Y
20. Tessa Hadley - The Master Bedroom

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Great review, Sonia! I, too, thought this was a satisfying read...Enright's writing makes the book something special, I think.