The Gathering had all the potential of being a deeply touching story – the narrator’s inner journey from a young girl, one of nine surviving children, to a 39 year-old married woman organising the funeral of her brother, Liam.
The closest in age to her recently deceased sibling, Veronica looks back on an extended family life in Dublin, with particular emphasis on the life and times of their paternal grandmother, Ada. Veronica is looking for an understanding of the wasted life of Liam, an alcoholic who committed suicide in England. She believes something happened when they were children staying at the home of Ada.
Anne Enright unquestionably writes beautifully – but her story as a whole has no focus, a split time narrative resulting in a disjointed, disconnected and often confusing flow (too often a return to the previous paragraph for clarity was required with the realisation that a new thought, time or even character was now the focus). The present and the past merge too often in a stream of consciousness where the poetic language may flow, but which suddenly leaves you unsure who or what is being described…
Added to which, none of the characters (where they have been developed) are particularly likeable or fully rounded.
In short, The Gathering is a disappointing book that misses on so many levels. And it makes you lose the will to carry on reading – not a good thing in a novel!