Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Anne Enright: The Gathering

What is it with my problem with Man Booker Award winners? The last one I remember is White Tiger, which we read in our Kuwait book group, and I hated. Actually, it was the main character I hated . . . and possibly that is what is happening with me and The Gathering, now that I think about it.

We meet Veronica, Irish, from a large Irish family, as she learns of the death of her brother Liam. Through claiming the body, preparing for the funeral, the funeral and the aftermath, we are there with Veronica as she whines and complains, as she disparages her family members while ignoring her own husband and family, and she drinks too much. She gets up at noon, and stays up all night, avoiding her husband. Her language is frightful, and her sexual episodes are crude and explicit . . . offensive, but maybe it is the utter distraught nature of a woman in the throes of the deepest grief?

Slowly, slowly, the story unfolds. For me, I was never sure what was truth and what was imagination, in terms of the story. Were the children abused, molested, neglected? Or are these the creative imaginings of a troubled woman? There seems to be a thread of insanity in the family – can we trust that she is a reliable narrator?

As little as I liked the main character – hmmmm, that seems to be a problem I am having a lot right now, or at least I’ve had a run of main characters I don’t like very well – I finished this book. I’m glad I read it so that I can talk about it if it comes up in a discussion, but it did not inspire or elevate me in any way, and I didn’t even feel a lot of compassion for the narrator.

September 21, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Books, Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Interconnected, Ireland, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships | 5 Comments

Ann Patchett: The Patron Saint of Liars

I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. The main character is odd, a woman who doesn’t really think things through clearly, and somehow doesn’t even really know what she is feeling.

She gets married, and three years later, pregnant, decides “the marriage isn’t working” and leaves her husband, with a note saying only that the marriage isn’t working. We’ve been with her when she met him and fell in love, and she seemed to love him OK, and their lives together seemed to be OK, but somehow, she had to leave. I didn’t understand it when it happens in the book, and I never did understand it. The author tells us that Rose is a private person.

Rose drives from California to Tennesee, to a home for unwed mothers, where she bears a child, whom she keeps. Most of what she does seems to be on automatic pilot. I never really understand what Rose wants, only that she is aware that this isn’t it.

The story is told from three different points of view, and at no time did I have a clear idea of what motivated the main character, Rose. You can’t help but love her husband, Son, and her daughter, and all the women who love Cecilia, and help raise her.

You do get was a rounded picture of people around her, the good sisters running the home for the unwed women, how the women who arrived changed over the years as our culture changed, and how you may not understand how a person’s mind is working but sometimes you can just find a way to accept that she is what she is, and get on with living your life.

I really liked the book, even though I was not taken with the main character. I can’t tell you too much without giving it all away. Read the book and tell me what you think.

September 21, 2011 Posted by | Books, Charity, Fiction, Friends & Friendship, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Social Issues | Leave a comment