I was hooked by the back cover synopsis describing the story of an Irish family coming together in the wake of a tragedy. So I picked up Anne Enright’s The Gathering at my local library. After a couple of weeks of trying to read it, I was reminded of a few realities:
- It’s important to try new things. Opening your mind to new authors, and new perspectives is a valuable way to learn about the world.
- It’s important to stick with it through difficult experiences for the sake of keeping or achieving something of great value.
- It’s important to know when to stop what you’re doing and move on after trying to glean something of value after 14.5 chapters of going through the motions.
With all the other demands, requests, and enticements on my time, I simply could not justify continuing to open a book that was offering me no pleasure, no growth, and no value. I just couldn’t get into it, and I expect the language of a good novel to leave me with no choice but to fall into the world of the story before I even realize what’s happening. This first person narrative, however, left me constantly wondering what the protagonist meant and how she was feeling. I never in 14 chapters felt like I was fully in the world of the novel, as I was jolted out of every scene by my confusion. This constant questioning made the heavy content of the story even more difficult to wade through: a dead sibling, an aging mother, a failing marriage, and a strange sexual innuendo coloring every scene. It was beginning to feel like picking up a little dark box of depression and chaos every evening, when what I wanted was a respite of hope and beauty.
The following passage captures the essence of what I experienced in the first half of the novel:
“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 each love someone, even when they are not there to love any more. And there is no logic or use to any of this, that I can see.”
Through this lens of the protagonist’s bleak worldview, the reader is required to leap over the gaps in thought process from one scene or idea to the next, while wading through the emotional content ranging from uncomfortable to disturbing. Searching for nuggets of value becomes too much of a chore to continue.
I am genuinely curious how other people felt about this novel, so if you have read it, please comment or let me know. Apparently, someone must have found beauty in its pages, because it won the Man Booker Prize in 2007. As for me, I turned to some more uplifting and inspiring tales, which I will be sure to tell you about soon. Stay tuned!