The Gathering by Anne Enright
Man Booker Challenge (winner 2007), notable books challenge
I liked this book. I've read reviews that found this depressing and miserable, but it wasn't that bad. Perhaps it's a cultural thing. My paternal descendants are all Irish, way back, but in the Maritimes, we still claim that heritage regardless of how many hundreds of years ago those poor starving ancestors left Ireland. Part of the reason is that the Irish struck together over here, like the French and the Scottish, so that my father's generation was the first to marry non-Irish. He's from a relatively large family as well, so I am familiar with the large family saga, where you are related to people and know them, while you may not actually know them at all, but having met once, you have that connection, that shared heritage.
The other reason I liked this book was the connection I felt to the narrator. She's a woman about my age (she's 39) and her life is fine, no reason to be unhappy, but she's beginning to question her life and her family. Middle age angsty stuff. Veronica recognizes that she has no reason to be unhappy, but she is spiraling downward after the suicide of her closest brother. She tries to look into her past and her brother's to see where things went wrong with Liam and herself. Her memories are all tossed together with her siblings and they were more realistic described than the minutely detailed memories that occur in some memoirs. For example, she remembers the time she was eight and staying at her grandmother's and she ate a plastic flower. The flower came out it the diaper, but she was eight, so it must have been her little sister who did that, but she thought the story was about her. Lots of real touches like that.
So in conclusion, without going into any more detail, I didn't mind the depressing stuff because I recognize it. Irish stories are often depressing (You've read Angela's Ashes? My dad recognized his childhood, to a lesser degree) and I get it. I liked the writing as well, and can see why this was the winner for the Man Booker last year. There are still some things I found a little vague, so I am looking forward to the discussion with my book group about this book. I think there is a lot to discuss after reading this book.