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#87021 - 11/15/08 10:50 AM November 2008 Fiction: The Gathering
LaSalleUGirl Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/25/01
Posts: 1895
Loc: Philadelphia, PA, USA

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Oh, I'm such a bad book club moderator!! I completely forgot to start a thread for this month's book, and now it's actually discussion day and I didn't warn you. I'm so sorry!

November's book is Anne Enright's Booker Prize winning novel The Gathering. The Amazon review claims that "with equal intensity [Enright] explores death and dying, the sea and its siren song, sex, shame, secrecy, unreliable memories, madness, "the drink," and--always in the shadows--England," and yet does so in a way that is unlike any other novel by an Irish author.

It sounds fantastic. I'll have to get my hands on a copy. (Sigh. Bad, bad book club moderator...)

If you've already read The Gathering, feel free to start chatting now. If you haven't, but want to, I'll try to pop in again around the 25th to spark some discussion.

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#87028 - 11/15/08 08:39 PM Re: November 2008 Fiction: The Gathering [Re: LaSalleUGirl]
Kivrin Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 4604
Loc: Santa Cruz, CA, USA

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You aren't alone, LSUG.

I'd like to discuss this one too, but I haven't finished reading it. I meant to finish today, but woke early with a migraine, thus no reading, no computer, no nothin' all day long. The brain fog is lifting now though, and I'll be able to savor the rest of the novel. I think it's brilliantly written, by the way.

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#87050 - 11/17/08 08:13 PM Re: November 2008 Fiction: The Gathering [Re: Kivrin]
Kivrin Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 4604
Loc: Santa Cruz, CA, USA

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Two days later. I'll start, because I just now finished reading The Gathering. There's no doubt that Enright writes a beautiful line of prose. She is also a very insightful writer. I loved how well she conveyed the uncertainty of childhood memory; what is real, what is imagined? I didn't mind that Veronica was a completely unreliable narrator, that was to be expected, given the themes of the novel. I like narrators like Veronica, and, I love stories about bleak, bitter, dysfunctional families and the secrets they keep.

I love all the layers that swirl around what is said, what goes unsaid, in emotional family gatherings--which tend to be weddings, holidays, or funerals. I fully expected to adore this book, but I'm afraid that the style, although intended to confuse--therefore mirroring V's confused state of mind--was just too, well, confusing. Yes, I think it was fully intended to be nonlinear, out of chronological order, just like memory. However, as a reader, we need a narration that flows, even as it jumps back and forth through time.

All that said, I'd still put it on a list of books I'd recommend to my friends. Why? Because I do love this sort of book. I love Veronica's cynicism, the gloomy, bitter sadness of it all. I think that despite the narration, Enright succeeds in telling the two stories; Story One in the present--of Veronica's absolute grief over her brother, her descent into this sort of madness, and the ending of her marriage, her dissatisfaction with her life. Story two of the past--the historical portrait of the Hegartys, brought to the surface by Liam's death.

I can see exactly how this won The Booker, and I can also see why people are upset that it won. I admire Enright for writing a book that can split opinions so strongly. There's something to be said for that. Anyone else have thoughts about it?

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#87098 - 11/26/08 11:10 AM Re: November 2008 Fiction: The Gathering [Re: Kivrin]
LaSalleUGirl Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/25/01
Posts: 1895
Loc: Philadelphia, PA, USA

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Well, my copy of The Gathering hasn't arrived yet, so I have nothing substantial to add. But I did want to bump up the thread in case others want to chime in. I'll be interested to see how I react to the structural issues that Kivrin mentions above. Updates as events warrant :-) And in the meantime, please feel free to chime in with your own reactions.
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#87100 - 11/26/08 01:16 PM Re: November 2008 Fiction: The Gathering [Re: LaSalleUGirl]
setara
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/28/02
Posts: 471
Loc: Alberta/Canada

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I read it in October, and posted this small review of it in another website. I am just being lazy and copying it here instead of rewriting my thoughts, but it certainly remains true to how I felt about it:

I am surprised at how much I did like this book. Stream of consciousness narrations are not something I usually get into, but I found the writing beautiful. More yet, there is freshness on Enright’s prose. Not once I remember reading a cliché in this book, and some passages are truly memorable. For instance:

And what amazes me as I hit the motorway is not the fact that everyone loses someone, but that everyone loves someone. It seems like such a massive waste of energy - and we all do it, all the people beetling along between the white lines, merging, converging, overtaking. We all love someone, even though they will all die. And we keep loving them, even though they are not there to love any more. And, there is no logic or use to any of this, that I can see.

This is not a plot driven story, but it is an exploration of grief, memory and family. I realize that it is not a book that every reader will appreciate. Or maybe not even a book I will appreciate in other moment/mood. Veronica, the narrator, is not an especially likeable character. Her harshness is too raw at times, but she remains true in her search for understanding and resolution into her own family’s dynamics and her brother’s suicide. Like someone picking a scab on a hurt, she digs deeper and deeper.

What is this book about after all? I think it is about the power of memory to create and recreate reality, and at the end allow us to proceed into the future. How we remember small, inconsequent moments – Veronica remembers walking behind a man with crutches on a path to the beach – and yet forget life-changing moments – Was Liam, Veronica's brother, sexually molested or not when they were children? Was she? And how it matters in your own life, in your own future, to remember or not. Does the truth, in any case, redeem those around us, or ourselves?

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#87110 - 11/28/08 05:32 PM Re: November 2008 Fiction: The Gathering [Re: setara]
Kivrin Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 4604
Loc: Santa Cruz, CA, USA

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Setara, I really like how you wrote your review. What I was noticing is that the passages I found most memorable were ones that resonated with me personally. They wouldn't evoke the same response in someone else. One of my favorites was at the very end of the book, during the memorial, when Veronica goes off in search of a cigarette.

It is many years since I smoked. We all gave up, one way or another, after Daddy died, so I have to accost one of the neighbors with this oddly intimate request...I go and sit in the foyer and I smoke. The cigarette tastes like the first cigarette I ever had, sitting on Liam's mattress in the garden passage, in 1974.

When my father died, during his memorial, at my parent's house, I remember casually stealing a cigarette from an open pack sitting on a table. Like Vee, it had been many years since I smoked. I walked out to the pool area (where my brother and I would smoke together as teens) to smoke and was suddenly transported to being 16 again, yes, in 1974.

I like this sentence you wrote: And how it matters in your own life, in your own future, to remember or not. Does the truth, in any case, redeem those around us, or ourselves?

It's for ourselves, really, isn't it?

Wow. I'm very drawn to novels themed with betrayals, redemption and resolution, of the heart-wrenching interplay of the family dynamic, that sort of thing because there are identifying passages in those books that stay with you, as reader, long after the book is finished.

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#87111 - 11/28/08 06:22 PM Re: November 2008 Fiction: The Gathering [Re: Kivrin]
setara
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/28/02
Posts: 471
Loc: Alberta/Canada

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Kivrin, what a strange coincidence between you and a character. I do recognize myself in the: “we all gave up one way or another”. But I don’t remember ever finding in a character, in any book, a situation so intimate that I had shared. Other then, of course, empathy for things that are more universal: grief, friendships, love, motherhood, etc, etc…

Since reading this book I have been obsessing about memory. Little things that we remember, and big things that we forget. And how we all share these memories as a family. Just a few days ago, my husband, kids and I were talking about a funny thing that happened to one of the kids when she was in kindergarten, but then the other two claimed that this had actually happened to each one of them. They almost had a fight while we figured it out who had been the “culprit” of the story. It was amazing to me how each one took for himself/herself a piece of family lore and made it personal. We never really figured out who had done it. Our memories all confused by each others mixed information.

I know I have been singing the merits of Goodreads here a bit too loud lately. I assure you that I am not in their payroll or anything. But, the discussion of The Gathering there was very interesting. You may want to check it out here.. I am Capitu there, by the way.

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#87115 - 11/28/08 09:17 PM Re: November 2008 Fiction: The Gathering [Re: setara]
Kivrin Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 4604
Loc: Santa Cruz, CA, USA

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Setara, I hope you don't mind if I added you as a friend. I'm Kivrin there too. Feel free to add me to your friends list. Anyway, back to The Gathering. Yes, I've been obsessing about memory also. It's the time of year. I'm in touch with family more, and we have those conversations about our past and "do you remember when?" is often a natural topic...

That was a very good discussion on GR. People seem to either really like or really hate Veronica. I'm one of the people who really likes her in all her bitter, raw madness. That quote above about the cigarette got me wondering if there was an incestuous relationship between Liam and Veronica? Vee doesn't come right out and say it, she does hint at it, and it would account for a lot of her behavior, her cynicism.

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#87120 - 11/30/08 07:05 PM Re: November 2008 Fiction: The Gathering [Re: Kivrin]
setara
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/28/02
Posts: 471
Loc: Alberta/Canada

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I liked Veronica too. I found her and her conflicts all too human. No, she is not “perfect”, but authentic people – or characters – usually aren’t.

I also wondered about her relationship with her brother; it carried a very palpable sensual component. Was it incestuous? The whole book alludes of sex, and when Veronica does decide to “talk” about it, she does in a very dry and crude manner. But much is left unsaid. She hints at Liam’s homosexuality, and – if I remember it right as it has been a while now since I read it – at Liam hurting a girlfriend, probably physically.

Even if Veronica and Liam were not consummated lovers, their relationship had an intensity that seemed unnatural. But, after some time and distance from this book, more and more I believe that Veronica herself was sexually molested, as Liam was, and her fear is to remember it.

I don’t have much of an argument to defend this idea, just what my “memory and perceptions” are telling me now. Are they reliable? I don't know.

It is great to talk at Goodreads too. Thanks for adding me as a friend there.

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#87121 - 11/30/08 07:50 PM Re: November 2008 Fiction: The Gathering [Re: setara]
LaSalleUGirl Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/25/01
Posts: 1895
Loc: Philadelphia, PA, USA

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My copy finally arrived, and I'm about 70 pages in. So far, I'm really enjoying it. I like Veronica's narration, and the way she yanks out the rug from under you from time to time (I'm specifically thinking about the story of her grandmother and Lamb Nugent in the hotel). I'm starting to get those hints about the odd closeness between Vee and Liam, though nothing really substantial yet. I'll keep reading and post more later.
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