The Gathering by Anne Enright

The Gathering. which won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2007 , is set mostly in urban Ireland-Dublin. Veronica who narrates the story is in her late 30s with two children. She (and her siblings) are part of the newly prosperous Irish professional middle class . The occasion of her narrative is the arranging for a funeral and the coming together of the large family following the death of one of her brothers for whom she had particularly strong affection. Thereby hangs a tale with many stings. Veronica is reflecting on her family's lives and events and the passage of time. In going over her memories she is undergoing quite a bit of personal suffering throughout and as we find out - up to about 6 months after the funeral. The device is very cleverly used and the prose is particularly fine.

I don't want to make this sound like a simple family saga however - because it is a rich mine of social commentary , characterisation and analysis told in a story with insight and often humour. When the family members do come together the kitchen table drama is masterful and funny. But the big themes are always being examined - particularly Marriage , and the Church and the use and abuse of power and the effects on the lives of ordinary people especially children - often tragic ones. It is a very well structured novel which has some surprising and heartfelt twists and turns . Whilst Irish readers would identify the social settings and the changed details of urban life in Ireland from the 1930/50s to the 90s - there is a considerable relevance to Australia also.

A good critic and a teacher of literature I know commented that Anne Enright is one of the very best novelists around . She thought that her finest work was yet to come - the thought being when that happens it will be outstanding indeed. Whilst we await that I would recommend The Gathering as an introduction to the strong writing talent of Enright. I would love to hear some views on it. It should be readily available in libraries and as a paperback purchase - Jonathan Cape, 2007.