The Gathering by Anne Enright was dark and full of Irish Catholic repressed sexuality and guilt. The story line was difficult to follow and the book unfortunately did not draw me in.
The gathering seemed to be more one of thoughts and memories of the narrator, sister of the deceased, than about the gathering of the family for the wake. She talks about her own family, husband and two girls, which she compares to her mother’s family. She herself is one of 12 children, some of which died in infancy. Her mother, “Mammy”, she describes as a constantly pregnant, unfocused, absent-minded but silently manipulative person, who cannot remember her children’s names and from whom all stress and potential unpleasantness has to be kept. Her brother, whose wake the narrator is organising, she claims to have seen performing a sexual act on the landlord who was once in love with mother. These memories of sexuality change her attitude towards her husband. She withdraws sexual favours only to yearn for another child while waiting at the airport to return to Ireland after the funeral.
It was never clear to me if the memories she describes were based on facts or on fantasy; if the things she remembered had happened to her brother, to herself, or at all.
On the positive side, the language is descriptive and vivid and the book was relatively short.