Monday, December 20, 2010

Home again

One of the first things I did after unpacking, doing laundry, and deleting weird email was to look through our pictures. Then, I started to put some of them on Facebook, but gave that up. I'm sure to have more success updating my reading adventures.

The Gathering, by Anne Enright, is a dark novel told in first person by Veronica Hegarty, who is mourning her brother Liam after his suicide.

In the process of trying to come to terms with what has happened, Veronica ruminates over the past two generations of her family's history, imagining the lives of her grandmother Ada, her husband Charlie, and their landlord Lambert Nugent, who may also have been Ada's lover. The past is a blur, and in fact everything seems to be blurred--past and present, conjecture and fact.

Veronica and Liam were born into an Irish Catholic family in Dublin and were very close, both emotionally and chronologically, which in this case means "eleven months apart." They were middle children in a brood of twelve (there were also several miscarriages). I probably don't have to actually point this out, but they were poor and crowded. Included in Veronica's murky memory is the year when she was farmed out to her grandparents' house along with Liam and younger sister Kitty. We know that their mother "Mamie" is in a permanent fog of some kind and was knee deep in child rearing at the time. Veronica's bitterness about having parents who hardly knew their children is evident, as well as being sent to live in a house where they are viewed as "in the way" and treated like charity cases.

Despite the fact that Veronica is so melancholy and serious, she does show a a very funny dry sense of humor at surprising times. It's a gift of comic relief for Enright's readers, because eventually what follows is a memory of what probably happened that year, when she and Liam were 8 and 9 (respectively), as well as a trip through all of her guilt feelings about why she wound up with a comfortable, middle class life and her brother didn't. Veronica is in a secure marriage, a homemaker and mother of two daughters, but her emotional distress is threatening to do real damage to her family life. There is so much about the past and its effect on their lives that is simply unknowable. There is no why, there is no answer to the question, "what led Liam to do this?"

I'm not sure how to interpret the ending, but I hope that in the end, Veronica does fall back into her settled life, to her loving and deserving husband and daughters. She's come frightfully close to running off, though. Too close.

The Gathering is a grim but fascinating journey, I'm glad to have read it, but it's not for everyone. I found the style to be pleasingly literary while still being very assessable.

The end. Individual interpretations may vary. Ha.


Vacation was very nice and relaxing. Ekim won six out of seven Scrabble games, though I did manage to stay close to him a couple times. On one of these occasions, however, Ekim's very last move in a very close game was a BINGO. He went out on a bingo. And when he's finished the gory task of adding up all those points to the left, right, up and down, then adding 50, silly me thought, that's that. Oh ho, I forgot: I had seven tiles on my rack to subtract from my score. THEN it was over. That was a bit of a downer, but we had some lovely days in Key West, Nassau, and Coco Cay. It was freezing in Charleston, but it's not a long walk to the brewpub and it's always excellent drinking weather.

And I'm sitting here, still sort of rocking.


Doug said...

Sounds like a very good book, although I have to say, one of the things I enjoy about being fictional is the possibility of realistic, describable motives. Give that up and you might as well be real.

Happy holidays, Pezes.

actonbell said...

So true, Doug. Happy Holidays!

Bone said...

Did you say anything before Scrabble?

I love that you played Scrabble on vacation.

Am I saying Scrabble too much? Feels like it.

TLP said...

Good post, as usual. I've decided that Ekim cheats at Scrabble. Being a genius is cheating, right?