This is the story of the Hegarty family, written by daughter Veronica, as they all gather together for the funeral of her brother Liam. I do like to always find a positive in a book as I can appreciate the hard work of the author in creating it, but I really struggled to find any positives about this book at all. It’s rare that I have to force myself to keep ploughing on to finish a book, but I had to do just that with this one. I kept hoping it would improve with the next chapter, but sadly it didn’t. I kept thinking I was missing something as I felt just as confused in the mid-part of the book as I did at the beginning. The book is frustrating as it doesn’t seem to be about anything in particular.

I also found I didn’t like the narrator, Veronica (in fact, I wasn’t even sure which sibling she was as she only referred to herself as ‘I’). I felt that, as a reader, I didn’t know her and the only information I could glean was that she seemed to be complaining about everything and everybody; she didn’t have any sympathy for her mother (who I thought was either ill or depressed) and seemed in general to be extremely angry and bitter for no reason I could understand apart from possibly the fact that her parents had so many children. I kept constantly wondering at what point in the book we were going to find out more about the narrator. It also bothered me that I didn’t feel I could rely on Veronica as a truthful narrator; I doubted what she remembered and said, eg, she described a scene involving her grandparents and it reads as fact as there is so much vivid detail and yet I then realised Veronica can’t have witnessed this scene as she wasn’t yet born. So, at best, this scene can only be one that has been told to her and she has then embellished (which then raises the question of which aspects of the scene are true and which are embellishment), or (as I was increasingly suspecting) she had no knowledge at all of such a scene and had just made the story up. I’m also not certain if she actually believed these stories herself – did she imagine the scene in her head and then believe it was a genuine memory, perhaps? I generally felt that the whole book was a waste of my time as I would learn something about Ada the gran, for example, and yet have to keep in mind that it could all be an invention. Therefore, what had I actually gained from reading that chapter – I felt the answer was nothing at all, apart from a stronger suspicion that the narrator was perhaps slightly mad and prone to making up stories. The ghosts that kept appearing to Veronica also make me feel that she was unclear about what was real and what was unreal. She seemed to be living in an angry confused daze.

I also didn’t like the writing style as it felt very disjointed and unfocused and jumped around, and I found the book wasn’t at all enjoyable or gripping. For quite a lot of the book, I felt very frustrated and that I could have been spending my time reading something else far more enjoyable.

The Gathering (Paperback)

By (author): Anne Enright

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