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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Booker winner's tragic tale
By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

The Gathering - Anne Enright
The novel focuses on the life of a dysfunctional family
Anne Enright's The Gathering, which has won the 2007 Booker Prize, is a tragic tale based around a grieving family who gather in Dublin for their brother Liam's wake.

The story is told through the eyes of Veronica Hegarty, a 39-year-old married mother of two.

Out of all her brothers and sisters, it is Veronica who takes the news of her alcoholic brother's suicide the hardest.

Throughout the book she regales memories of their childhood to help her to remember a dark secret the two youngsters had kept hidden for years.

The most significant part of their childhood was spent living with their grandmother, Ada.

Veronica's grief in the current day is intertwined with vague memories of her childhood and a half-imagined account of her grandmother's life.

The sibling bond between Veronica and Liam is clear from the start, as she looks back with fondness at the time they spent together as children.

But as time passes, Enright conveys how Veronica's love for her brother becomes complicated and confused.

"This was not the first time I left my brother, and it would not be the last. In his later, drinking years, I left him every time he arrived. But even before he hit the bottle, there were times when I just had to roll my eyes and walk away."

Dysfunctional family

At times one can not be sure she had liked him at all in later life.

Anne Enright
Enright's work was called 'exhilaratingly bleak' by judges
"Drink made him vicious, but even sober he could smell what was going on in a room, I swear it, because the place Liam worked best was under your skin."

One cannot help but be drawn into the story to learn more about this dysfunctional family, and discover if Veronica will ever come to terms with what happened to her brother which affected him so dramatically in later life.

Loss is a theme which occurs throughout the book in many forms - not just through death. The loss of an innocent childhood is also explored, as well as Veronica's sad realisation that her "vague" and forgetful" mother is slipping away from her.

Liam is the third Hegarty sibling to die from a family of 12, and death was something Veronica had been made aware of from a young age.

"I was still eight, and Liam was nine, and we were going 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."

Dark humour

Despite the unsettling and bleak matter of the book, Enright displays occasional hints of dark humour. She uses Liam's funeral to portray Veronica's hurt and upset frame of mind.

"All the Hegarty children have a hangover, including the one in the box. It is a very peaceful, precious kind off feeling; a swelling of the senses, between pain and warmth.

"Liam has the biggest one of all, of course, because Liam finally got out of his head. He will be sleeping this one off, for a while."

The Gathering is a captivating and sad story of a woman's unbroken silence, who yearns to repair damage already done.



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