Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Gathering by Anne Enright

If you love language and aren't too fussed about plot, then you ought to enjoy this Booker Prize-winning novel. I've been interested lately in novels that work more with narration (so called "telling") than with scene (so called "showing"), and this novel pulls that off so well I barely noticed the lack of scene until I was two-thirds of the way through. The center of the novel is a wake (we're in Ireland) for the narrator's brother who has committed suicide and the chapters are all spokes off that center--memories related to her brother, present moments related to the death, and imagined memories of the narrator's mother and other characters. And the shuffling between those times makes you feel like you're moving forward even though we're pretty static in the present moment. But it all works (for me, at least) because the narrator has a strong voice, interesting observations, and an emotional intensity that makes even the imagined memories feel high stakes. So I was happy to spend time with her--it's a case of wanting to get to know the narrator better rather than wanting to know what happened.

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