1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
If only the author had heeded the Mad Hatter's advice to Alice,
This review is from: The Gathering (Paperback)
when telling a story 'Begin at the beginning ... when you reach the end - stop', this book could have been much improved.
I tend to avoid novels that have awarded prizes, as in my experience, they tend to be too much like hard work, but I picked this one up anyway as the blurb on the back cover sounded quite interesting. Indeed it might been an interesting tale if told properly, unfortunately this turns out to be one of those convoluted narratives - flashing back between present and future - where the author seems happy to do anything with the story rather than to actually tell it!
This tale revolves round a large dysfunctional Irish family gathered to mourn an alcoholic brother who has committed suicide and is narrated by sibling Veronica, who apparently was closest to him. She has cashed in on her good looks by marrying well - cue lots of middle class angst about her comfortable lifestyle, successful husband (who may or may not be unfaithful) and her two beautiful children. She believes her brother Liam has been driven to his life of alcoholism/suicide through abuse he suffered as a child at their grandmother's home. We don't learn much about either Liam or the other siblings - just brief glimpses through flashbacks/present day at the funeral which is a shame as any one of them is likely to be more interesting than Veronica. We do learn a lot about her but the problem is that there really isn't a lot to know -she really isn't any different from any other middle class woman who has too much time on her hands.
I quite liked the author's writing style and snippets of the book are very well written and engaging. Actually it's probably more satisfactory if dipped into at random and read out of sequence rather than being read as a sequential narrative which ties together and makes sense. We generally expect when reading a novel that as we progress through the pages we will form a clearer picture of the author's intention, whereas here the more we read the more murky it becomes. We see events only through the eyes of Veronica, who proves to be a rather unreliable narrator. Clearly the scenes involving third parties such as her grandmother Ada/her `admirer' Lamb Nugent (where she was not present and which Ada would not have confided to her) are mostly speculation, later on we learn that a key scene where the claims to have witnessed her brother being abused was purely fantasy on her part.
In fact given that key elements of the story apparently exist only in Veronica's imagination, by the end of the novel we don't know if Lamb really sexually abused Liam or anyone else and we are left to speculate that perhaps this - like her assertion to an boyfriend that her grandmother was a prostitute - is just something she made up based on no solid facts whatsoever?
Disbelief can only be suspended so far and I'm afraid my patience ran out at this point, and I started to flick quickly to the end page. The only word to describe the ending is pure bathos. I wanted closure on the abuse story and could not really care less if Veronica came to terms with her marriage or not ... Still at least it confirms my beliefs about novels that have won prizes!