Friday, February 26, 2010

The Gathering - Anne Enright

What is the truth? Where does it lead you? Can truth that has been buried for years turn into a lie or a figment of imagination? Does it stay as it is, ignored as it has been for years? Or does it turn into this large unwieldy thing inside you, bloating, disfiguring, till you have to let it out?

Veronica Hagerty loved her brother Liam. Events in their lives not withstanding, she loved him perhaps more than any of her other siblings. When her brother dies, grief, guilt, midlife crisis, a dwindling marriage - one, some or all of these reasons force her to review her entire life in minute detail. In someway, hers and Liam's lives are always entwined and interconnected, whether they can stand each other or not. Veronica knows her brother's secret. She knows what happened in their grandmother's house the winter of 1968. All these years she has kept it to herself, as long as Liam was alive, it was his secret, his past, his responsibility. Drunkard or not, Liam was alive, blood flowed in his veins and so did the responsibility of the truth.

When Liam dies, the truth pops out of him like a bubble and it is the unbridgeable gap between her and peace. Suddenly it becomes her responsibility. The truth. To tell or not to tell, to forget or to not forget. Does she even really remember it?

So Veronica, unconsciously or by design, sets about trying to get to the crux of this truth. In the end, what threatens to undo her? Is it the way she grew up? Is it her grandmother's house? Her own tottering marriage? Does she feel purposeless and unloved? Is it midlife crisis or simply the guilt? The guilt that seems to tell her over and over again that she knew, she knew and she didn't do anything about it. And now Liam is dead.

Whatever it is, even as Veronica traces the history and experiences of her family back from the days of her grandmother's youth, it is all for Liam. Real or imagined, she struggles to make sense of the life she has led, they have all led, for Liam's sake. She loved Liam; even while she hated him, she loved him. She cannot run away now, no matter how much she might try to let herself go, the truth ought to be faced.

The Gathering is like a jigsaw puzzle. It begins all over the place, that is to say, the narrator Veronica Hegarty does. How it is finally perceived is up to the reader I suppose. To those who can withstand the direct and sometimes terrible way that Veronica Hagerty looks at everything around her, this book might remain with them long after they have put it down. It doesn't wear comfortably, no fairytale this, but through Veronica, Anne Enright has pushed the truth of things out bit by bit till you can no longer ignore it. It is there to be considered and you have to consider it. The Gathering is a wrenching tale about how neither Veronica nor Liam are able to forget what happened to him in her grandmother's house the winter of 1968 and how the rest of their lives were shaped around and over it.


Pavi said...

Sounds like a good thriller to me..I like suspense stories unless and until they don involve any bloodshed or merciless killing of the innocent,lovable characters..I really get upset when such stuff happens..But I guess this book wont be one such..Of course there's a character who dies, still hoping it would only get better after that.Hope I'm atleast 50% true :p..anyways good narration vaish:) Particularly,I love the cover of the book..Something really appealing about it:) keep narrating :)

Vaishnavi said...

@Pavi - It is not a suspense novel, it is just in their lives unfolding one after the other. This book is a little intense, not sure if you might like it but I am sure you will love the next one I am going to write about. I am in love with it myself :)

bikerguy said...

nice narration, the story has been built very well.
looks like the book involves a lot of "bitter" truth and tangling of relationships....the kinds i dont usually end up reading.
nevertheless, very good work done. your blog is updated pretty frequently...nice to see that :)

Shweta said...

Fab review. I was quite taken by this book myself. It was an accidental find but I loved the way this book shocked and surprised me.

Btw nice blog...Hope to see more reviews :)

Vaishnavi said...

@Avi - Thanks :) Yeah the book is a litle like a pill :)

@Shweta - Thanks for visiting! Anne Enright is devastating in her observations, you can't escape it :) Do come again :)

Anonymous said...

Came to your blog from Bedazzled.

Lovely review. I agree with it for the most part. It is a devastating, devastating book.

Vaishnavi said...

@Nishita - Thanks for coming :) Yeah it is a devastating book, I wouldn't read this one again but it made for an intense first read

thevanishinglake said...

I followed the tag to this post. I had a really strong reaction to this book. Maybe this is a bit weird but I found that so much of it was about bodies and bodily functions... it was like all the characters were trapped by their own bodies. I thought it was well written but altogether just a bit too claustrophobic. Good review though!

Vaishnavi said...

@thevanishinglake - So did I. I think it is impossible to not have a strong reaction to this book. For me too, I reached a point where it just sort of closed off on me and got all chokey. I don't know if I can say that I am glad I finished this book but it was a different read. Very Bookerish though....I felt..