Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Gathering

This is book no 18 in my attempt to read 100 books this year and respond to them all in this blog. I'm just about keeping the target in sight although I'm lagging a little. However, I'm finding it a rewarding experience and have yet to have to wrestle with a book that I'm not enjoying.

The Gathering - Anne Enright

What a wonderfully rich and evocative title this is. The Gathering. With slightly ominous tones. The gathering of the clans, the gathering darkness, the gathering of material, an abscess, the gathering of yarn to spin a tale.

It is a tale of the psycho-sexual forest that all tales must cross. Here are Hansel and Gretel gathering the crumbs as they try to find their way into the past, before the wrinkled hands of time baked them. But Hansel has drowned. How can you follow footsteps across the water?

Here is Red Riding Hood retracing her steps to before she ran with the wolves, trying to put together a basket of wishes for her grandmother, castaway in the mists of time. Shapeshifting from kindly old lady to wolf and back again.

Family is a conspiracy against time. When the clan is gathered the past is as vivid and present as the here and now. You have to struggle for your own space.
"The Hegarty nose," says Kitty. "Ita's had a job done on our nose."
"I really think," says Mossie
"I really think. It's her nose. At this stage."

The fabulous and the particular are intermingled in this tale of one woman's life and the voice in her head trying to make sense of it. But is there sense to be made of it?

"I am gripped by the thought that I have, shamefully, forgotten something: there is a tampon seeping into the water of the downstairs toilet; I have left half a biscuit on the arm of a chair, or forgotten to finish my tea. I can feel it going cold in my mouth, as I hunt around and finally find the empty cup."

A funeral, a family, a mystery, madness, abuse... this has all the elements of a blockbuster but it remains personal and slightly mysterious. There are details pinned so perfectly to the page that they give the voice a truth that only fiction can achieve.

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