The Gathering by Anne Enright

25 12 2007

Perhaps I am not a literati, though I do fancy myself as one. Recently I perused the shelves at Borders long enough that my fellow book lover Jennifer wanted to leave. I wanted to find that a book or two that I would not be able to put down once starting.

This was a direct result of starting (and still not finishing) the extremely boring A Taxonomy of Barnacles by Galt Niederhoffer. When reading this book, one wonders if it was written by the same person who wrote the screenplay for the seemingly intentionally boring Royal Tennenbaums, as there is something eerily similar about the mood in these two works. One should not choose books based on the following criteria: clever title, eye catching

cover art, proudly occupying space on the “buy two get one free table” at Borders.

I carefully chose two books during my recent trip to Borders. The Gathering by Anne Enright and The Abortionist’s Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde. I not started Hyde’s book yet, though I just finished The Gathering today.

One thing that attracted me to The Gathering is that it won the Man Booker Prize in 2007. Newsweek compares Enright to Anne Tyler – one of my favorite authors. The blurbs on the back of the book make it out to be a mystery. I was in the mood for a mystery. I read the first chapter of the book in the store and it really seemed like it would be a good read. Not so. I didn’t enjoy this book at all. I kept thinking it would get better or that something big would happen, making all of the time I spent reading worthwhile. Not so.

A traumatic event that may or may not have happened plays a large role in the mental lives of the two main characters. One evil individual may have perpetrated events upon the members of this family that have caused irreparable harm to members of three generations. The reader never really knows if it occurred or not, only that the main character thinks it may have happened. Clear as mud? Although it is well written, the fact that the plot consists entirely of an internal struggle is very confusing.

There was one part in the book that really made me think:

“Two years ago, I had a letter from Ernest. He was writing to tell me that he was leaving the priesthood, though he had decided to stay with his little school in the high mountains. And his bishop might have a few things to say about this, so he had decided not to tell his bishop – he was in fact, telling no one except friends and family (but don’t tell Mammy!)that it was no longer ‘Father Ernest’, but just plain old ‘Ernest’ again. Once a priest always a priest, of course – so he wasn’t exactly telling lies by keeping his mouth shut. ‘I have no place left to live but in my own heart,’ he wrote, meaning he would conduct his life as before, but on privately different terms.”

This resonates with me. How many people do I know that are conducting their lives on terms private within their own minds? There are certainly a few. When I put myself in their places, I understand that there must be some private terms that go along with enduring the current circumstances.

The to-be-read pile still looms ahead, though it has shrunken since I took note of its existence. I resolve to only purchase book club reads until Spring. I would like to read 100 books in 2008. I will review them on this blog (along with my other musings – non-readers don’t give up on me yet) in order to keep track.

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