Friday, November 9, 2007

REVIEW: The Gathering, by Anne Enright

Published: 2007. 2007 winner of the Man Book Prize. Click on the cover to buy from your local Booksense-affiliated independent bookseller.

For a while, before I settled on "Boston Bibliophile" as the name of my blog, I considered using "The Contrarian Librarian," and books like this remind me why. Am I the only person who thought this novel was Dullsville? Because I do. The Gathering is the story of Veronica and Liam- Liam has committed suicide and his sister Veronica must identify his body, break the news to their large family- a large group of brothers and sisters and a dilapidated mother- and preside over the burial. It's a story of secrets and shame, dysfunction, memory and loss. And it's boring.

Veronica mixes memory and imagination recounting several stories- her grandmother's love triangle, her own childhood with Liam and the other siblings, and her present-day life with a husband and children from whom she is disconnected. There is a secret, something bad that happened to Liam one fateful summer... it's all very Oprah. All I can say is that if you've been reading the dysfunctional-family fiction that's been trendy for the past 10 to 15 years you've got it covered. I really don't know how it won the Booker Prize or why everyone is gushing about it so much. Obviously I missed something.

It reminds me a lot of John Banville's The Sea, also a recent Booker winner, which I reviewed a week or so ago, and not for good reasons. It's not that it's badly written. The characters are convincing and the writing is quite beautiful in places. I'm just really tired of books about memory. Did it happen this way? Did it happen at all? Who cares? Whatever happened to plot? You know, plot? A series of events leading to a conclusion? There was no plot. The plot was, someone dies and they have a wake and a funeral. So another well-written bore of a Booker winner. Maybe next year will be better.