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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imagining The Truth
I read this book in snatches while on holiday and found it moving and literary, without being pretentious.

Traumatised by the death of her brother Liam's suicide, Veronica trys to make sense of what has happened and come to terms with her own reactions and emotions, by raking over the past. In contrast to many other novels, in which history is communicated as a...
Published on 24 April 2008 by Mr. C. W. Winter

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark and Slightly Confusing
This book was chosen as a book club read. I felt that the writing was clever, however i was at times dissapointed in how the book failed to deliver on the story- at times i wasn't sure what was true what was not of the character's experiences- the book jumped around alot between time zones. It was quite shocking in places in description of sexual act and language...
Published 20 months ago by harriett durrance


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark and Slightly Confusing, 18 Nov 2012
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This review is from: The Gathering (Paperback)
This book was chosen as a book club read. I felt that the writing was clever, however i was at times dissapointed in how the book failed to deliver on the story- at times i wasn't sure what was true what was not of the character's experiences- the book jumped around alot between time zones. It was quite shocking in places in description of sexual act and language used.

The story revolves around a character who is haveing a hard time dealing with the suicide of her brother and is reflective and resentful of the things which happenned during her childhood. It is a very dark book i feel and not a light read as a group i think we all felt the same. Haveing said that it is quite thought provoking and wouldn't put me off reading more of Anne Enright's work.
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65 of 77 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Simply the Worst, 24 Nov 2008
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gathering (Paperback)
One of the pleasures of being in a book group is that you find yourself forced to read books you never would have otherwise tried, and as a result, sometimes discover a wonderful work (one such example in my case is Jose Saramago's Blindness). However, the evil twin of that pleasure is the unmitigated pain of wasting precious time slogging through something you can't stand. Unfortunately, not only does this Booker Prize-winner stand firmly in that second category, it is the champion of it: the most hated book of the 70+ I've read for my bookclub, and the least enjoyable work of fiction I've read this year (out of roughly 100 or so books).

Unlike many other haters of this tedious book, I didn't find it particularly difficult reading. The unannounced shifts back and forth in time and place didn't leave me adrift so much as amazed at their clumsiness. Then again, the book is essentially a monologue of remembrance, and human memories are messy things, so I was willing to conditionally accept that messiness as part and parcel of the protagonist. Speaking of the protagonist (middle-aged Veronica Hegerty), many haters seem to focus on her unlikability as the source of the book's problems. Personally, I don't think that a protagonist needs to be likable in any way -- just interesting. But she's not interesting in the slightest, just (like the book itself), annoyingly self-indulgent. I suppose this could be construed as a kind of commentary on her yuppiesh generation, but that seems like grasping at straws. Moreover, there are no other characters to connect with. The entire story takes place within Veronica's head, and even though it's populated with various family members who allegedly mean so much to her (in a love/hate way), the reader never gets a sense of any of them.

The plot -- such as it is -- revolves around the suicide of one of Veronica's brothers, which sends her on a trip to Brighton to bring the body back to Ireland for the funeral (she is gathering the body to bring it back to a gathering of people -- clever). About halfway into the book the "secret" of this brother's lifelong depression is revealed, and it's both jaw-droppingly cliched and wholly simplistic and reductionist. My one hope was that this "revelation" would be the spark that lit a fire under the second half of the book -- but no, it simply plods forward at the same stultifying pace. Ultimately the book has nothing to offer: it has no telling insights into memory or regret, it rehashes the same tired cliches about growing up poor and Irish, its use of the unreliable narrator is rudimentary at best, and its not even notably bleak and depressing. I guess you could make the argument that many of these flaws are actually commentary on the flawed nature of humans, but this doesn't make it worth spending your own precious time on.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A short-story dragged beyond its natural length, 17 Sep 2008
By 
Jack (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gathering (Hardcover)
The Booker Prize is known as much for its occasional mis-fires as it is for recognising and rewarding brilliance. One thing's for sure; this 2007 winner is unlikely to trouble future compilers of 'Best of Booker' lists. In some ways it is surprising that it won simply because it is so close in its central themes to the winner two years before, John Banville's The Sea, which also deals with dysfunctional relationships, childhood memories, and the guilt and grief felt after a family death. But while Banville's book is a must-read masterpiece and worthy prize-winner; The Gathering is not...

This reader's frustration with The Gathering was amplified by the fact that it starts wonderfully and raises expectations to a level that it ultimately disappoints. There's no doubting Enright's 'technical' writing skills, and she has a particular way with metaphor, and a dark humour runs through her work. The opening chapter, only two pages long, is brilliant, setting the scene, establishing intrigue and a sense of dread - what memories, however uncertain, will the narrator invoke?

The novel reaches its high-point in Chapter 2 as the narrator goes to break the news of her brother's death to her sainted mother, and this big, brawling Irish family's history begins to spill out and show its cracks. But from here, as Enright has her narrator imagining - in endless detail - the lives and thoughts of her grandparents' generation and the hazy memories from her own childhood, in order to bring sense to her own situation now, the book begins to suffer seriously from being over-written and a complete loss of narrative momentum. At only 250 pages, the book feels twice as long, and comes across as a good short-story that's been stretched un-naturally to fit a novel's form.

While the book is essentially an exploration of uncertainty and memory, and how family history defines the self, I feel that Enright uses this to get away with some lazy thinking. For example, we are asked to accept that the brother's suicide was an absolutely inevitable outcome stemming from the abuse he suffered as a child. Really? An exploration of why some children 'survive' abuse and others don't, might have been more helpful - what else was in Liam's pysche that drove him into a life as an alcoholic drifter? Was that as responsible for his death as what happened to him as child? Enright's abstract and experimental style seems to imply that this doesn't matter, it's not really what the book is 'about' anyway, which is true enough but seems like a cop-out to me.

While none of Enright's characters, including the narrator, are exactly sympathetic, the men are particularly unpleasant and to my mind close to an easy stereotype. Enright is too artful to write that she thinks men are essentially rather thick and emotionally one-dimensional beings, led not by their brains but by what's in their trousers, but that's clearly her view based on the characterisations here. Sex is a heavy underlying theme, in Enright's view an elemental force that drives us to do things we would rather not do, and at no point is it suggested that to be human is actually to have the intelligence and will-power to overcome animal instincts. This leaves the book with a rather depressing, fatalistic taint, and the ending, where a glimmer of hope is offered to narrator Veronica, seems a slightly artificial 'Hollywood-ending' and at odds with everything that's gone before.

Oh well, not a disaster then, because of the quality of the writing, but certainly not a high-point in the Booker Prize's chequered history.
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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This rambling sexual history of a dysfunctional clan of Dubliners falls squarely in the mediocre category, 4 May 2009
By 
Trevor Coote "Trevor Coote" (Tahiti, French Polynesia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gathering (Paperback)
I was always unwilling to align myself with the `Booker bashers' for I was convinced that the much-debated literary prize surely attracted the most accomplished fictional works currently being penned in English. I was right, of course, but having now read 13 winners and a number of short- and long-listed works I can only conclude that, as in all other spheres of human endeavour, mediocrity dominates and brilliance shines inevitably but rarely. For me, Anne Enright's rambling sexual history of a dysfunctional clan of Dubliners falls squarely in the mediocre category.
At the funeral of alcoholic Liam Hegarty who has drowned off the coast of Brighton, his sister Veronica probes the past for clues as to what really set in motion her brother's decline and demise. Equipped with a memory as dysfunctional as her family she uncovers (fantasises?) sordid goings on in previous generations and, despite the fact that her grandmother was a whore and some of the others possess the morality of garden frogs, the `revelation' when it arrives hardly seems an event likely to traumatise one of the Hegarty clan. Seesawing back and forth in time and between reality and fantasy, and replete with gratuitous and almost slapstick sexual descriptions, irritating single word sentences and single sentence paragraphs, the narrative becomes pretty confusing and none too interesting. Frankly, none of the characters are thinking human beings. As we learn more about their genitalia than their emotions (not surprising as that seems to be where their brains reside), it is difficult to care much about what happens and to whom (and nothing much does happen). It is not that The Gathering is a bad book, more that in the end it does not amount to much.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Starts off slowly and slides inexorably downhill, 8 Oct 2009
This review is from: The Gathering (Paperback)
What is it about the literary crowd? Why are they so different from the rest of us? This book got good reviews in the press and won the Booker prize, yet most readers didn't rate it at all, and neither do I. A novelist can just about get away with writing about a dreary subject (in this case the unlikable narrator's unlikable family) but only if the writing is really good. I found the pretentious style of this book to be grating and irritating, partly because of the author's attempts at making it 'literary' (lots of very short sentences, often just one word) and partly because of the constant first-person present-tense (I say, he says, etc) which isn't particularly unusual, but which becomes tiresome when combined with the lack of substance.
Apparently this book has sold by the hundreds of thousands on the back of all the initial praise, in which case there must be a hell of a lot of disappointed people out there.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A definite no-no!, 9 Sep 2008
By 
Jane Watson (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gathering (Paperback)
Oh dear ... what can one say about this book (that hasn't already been said by other reviewers certainly). I read this book for my book group and after the first 15 pages or so found myself thinking - right, let's get this book over and done with and get on to something interesting! The central premise was obviously the gathering of the relatives for Liam's funeral but Veronica (the narrator of the story) meandered from thought to thought and appeared to be obsessed with sex which become very tedious and boring after a while. The chapters and asides about Ada the grandmother seemed totally unnecessary and very odd and apart from the abuse part with Lambert Nugent could easily have been left out - except that would have made the book thinner than it was and was presumably just padding.

There was no real story to this book I found and although I could empathise with some of Veronica's feelings concerning her children and her siblings the whole thing was just a bit too odd and strange to make it a worthwhile read.

Can't think how it did win the Booker prize - who nobbled the judges!
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195 of 239 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring, 23 Aug 2007
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gathering (Hardcover)
Words almost fail me when describing how boring I found The Gathering.

The basic premise is that the Hegarty family, both numerous and Irish, is gathering for the funeral of one of the siblings - Liam - who it seems had a bit of a drink problem and drowned himself in the sea at Brighton. The novel is narrated by Liam's sister Veronica who was, we are told, close in age and also in affection.

The problem is that the family is intensely boring. There is nothing to make us actually care about any of them. They seem not to have any depth of personality and there is no attempt made at character development as Liam and Veronica's history is outlined. Neither do we see much in the way of story. We have to take Veronica's word for the close bond between herself and Liam - we see little more than an escapade at the bus station by way of example.

We are then asked to believe - in the novel's moment of drama - that Liam's problems arose from his abuse at the hands of Lambert Nugent, the spurned lover of his grandmother. However, the depth of Liam's problems are not properly explored, and no real attempt is made to link a change in behaviour to the event in question. Moreover, the nature of the abuse is hardly the most serious abuse known to man. Of course, this doesn't mean that it couldn't have affected Liam in a big way, but Anne Enright doesn't show us one way or another. Indeed, later on in the novel, she explains that nothing can be proven by way of cause and effect.

Then, we have Veronica's own issues. She has decided, for reasons that bored me, to call a temporary halt in conjugal relations with her husband. So what? The soul searching - navel gazing? - that comes on the back of this is the essence of tedium.

And despite not having a personality, Veronica seems terribly obsessed with herself. The count of "I" on each page is high. We have lines like, and I paraphrase, I knew immediately that it was me she had come to speak to... We have self conscious moments where Veronica has to turn her head away from whichever side of the room seemed to be looking at her most closely. Yet this is not played as neurosis - it seems to be a straight affirmation that Veronica is the star of the show. But the reason for this remains obscure.

There is some slight intrigue in the relationship between the grandmother, Ada, her husband Charlie and her spurned admirer Lambert. But this comes as too little, too late. By that point, it has all become words on a page. There is nothing to draw the reader into caring for the Hegarty family as people. Just the ever increasing wish that it would end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gave up on this one, 16 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Gathering (Kindle Edition)
I found the story telling difficult to relate to and boring, so gave up on it. Not my type of story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't tell Mammy., 3 May 2013
This review is from: The Gathering (Paperback)
Anne Enright was born in Dublin in 1962. She is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, an ex-employee of RTE and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. The Gathering was her fourth novel and won the 2007 Booker Prize.

"The Gathering" is told my Veronica Hegarty, a 39 year old Dubliner. She's married to Tom and the couple have two daughters, Rebecca and Emily. As the book opens, word has just come through that one of Veronica's brothers, Liam, has committed suicide in Brighton. Liam had been struggling with a drink problem for years; Veronica suspects his problems may have stemmed from an incident in their childhood.

With "The Gathering", Veronica apparently aims to tell Liam's story...though "to tell Liam's story, then I have to start long before he was born". She begins in 1925, when her grandmother, Ada Merriman, first met Lambert Nugent. Lamb was smitten instantly, but - unfortunately for him - Ada went on to marry his friend Charlie Spillane.

While Veronica may have wanted to tell Liam's story, by the end of the book I knew precious little about him - she focuses instead on Ada and Lamb, and a large part of that story appears to have come out of her own imagination. It also becomes obvious that she hates men in general, and Tom - her poor husband - appears to be utterly baffled as to where some of her comments are coming from. (It's never made clear where this hatred came from and I finished the book wondering exactly what had happened to Veronica). Somehow, she oblivious to her hatred, and apparently confuses poison and bitterness with insight and wisdom. She frequently refers to herself as "the one who loved him [Liam] the most" - a line that I found harder and harder to believe the more and more she said it. A struggle, and not a book I'd recommend - though I would say it was more deserving of the 2007 Booker Prize than "On Chesil Beach".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gathering gloom, 17 Oct 2011
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This review is from: The Gathering (Hardcover)
I gave this book three stars because I just enjoyed the writing. Each chapter was really a story of its own, a piece of a jigsaw. But as one reviewer wrote it didn't add up to much in the end. Someone said it was mediocre. Yes probably correct. In the end it was depressing and you really felt for Veronica, drifting in life. But there again who really cared about Liam. Ada was much more fun. I think you have to be a very serious and keen reader to bother with the gloom of The Gathering.
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The Gathering
The Gathering by Anne Enright
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