The Gathering, by Irish writer Anne Enright, won the 2007 Man Booker Prize. I read it in April. In this novel, the narrator describes her family of origin in terms of the labels we acquire, as families and as individuals in a family.
- “The Hegartys didn’t start kissing until the late eighties and even then we stuck to Christmas.”
- “There is always one child who is able, not just to look, but also to see. The quiet one.”
- “I am the careful one.”
But what I remember most about this book are the different ways Enright uses memory:
This is what I remember, but that can’t be right:
“It must have been the February of 1968. I was still eight, Liam was nine, and we were going up to ‘say goodbye’ to Charlie. I think I knew, even at eight, that you can say goodbye all you like, but when someone is dead they’re not going to say anything back….My memory has them all bundled in shawls; Ada’s back ascending in front of us in corseted black taffeta. But this is 1968: there would have been patterned headscarves and big-buttoned coats that smelt of the rain.”
I don’t remember that so I must not have been there:
“I don’t remember the hospital. At a guess, Ada did not take us inside.”
I don’t remember that; it’s not what was important:
“I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but conversation doesn’t stick to my memory of Liam.”
Which gives the novel the air of a memoir, of a struggle for the truth.
I’m trying to nail down my first memory. Every time I bring the hammer up, it seems to slip away. I think what I remember is green drinks in glasses and rough red brick.