The Gathering by Anne Enright (2006) 261 p.
Winner of the 2007 Booker Prize, Anne Enright’s The Gathering follows Irish woman Veronica Hegarty in the aftermath of her brother Liam’s suicide. As she travels to England to retrieve his body and bring it back to Dublin for burial, and braces herself for the wake which will see the drunken, bickering Hegarty clan reunited, she slowly begins to think about the past, and why her brother became a suicidal wreck. As the blurb puts it: “It wasn’t the drink that killed him – although that certainly helped – it was what happened to him as a boy in his grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968.” (It’s exactly what you think it is.)
The Gathering slots neatly into the Booker-bait category of “depressed person looks back on a life of regrets,” a template particularly popular among novelists from the British Isles (see also: The Sea, The Sense of an Ending.) I liked it a bit better than The Sense of an Ending, and a lot more than The Sea, but it was still a fairly dull affair. Enright is a decent enough writer when it comes to prose style, and there are some good scenes and visual images throughout the book. But in the end I simply couldn’t bring myself to care about this miserable woman from a family of jerks. I’m afraid I don’t have much more to say about this one.