Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5d6d958fb5-27v8q Total loading time: 0.271 Render date: 2022-11-27T07:06:59.382Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true
This chapter is part of a book that is no longer available to purchase from Cambridge Core

Flesh and Bones: Anne Enright's The Gathering

Margaret Mills Harper
Affiliation:
University of Limerick
Get access

Summary

“O cruel Death, give three things back,”

Sang a bone upon the shore;

“A child found all a child can lack,

Whether of pleasure or of rest,

Upon the abundance of my breast”:

A bone wave-whitened and dried in the wind.

W. B. Yeats, “Three Things” (521)

Anne Enright's 2007 novel The Gathering appeared on the English-language literary scene like a new relative at a family reunion, entering a book market full of witness or survivor narratives and best-selling memoirs of painful childhoods. At first glance, the novel seems a near relation to these accounts. Its first-person narrator, Veronica Hegarty, tells the story of her beloved, ruined brother Liam. He has committed suicide by walking into the sea off the coast of England, and she is very nearly undone herself as she arranges the big family funeral, including engaging with her ten remaining siblings, and lives through the months immediately afterward. At the heart of the story are rising questions about sexual abuse that may have occurred when she and Liam were children, and a family's collusion with powerlessness.

The novel dramatizes a situation of what clinical literature calls post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), using a narrator in contemporary time to bring into language a prelinguistic experience buried in her past. This narrator, who will fill her narratives with what she knows to be misinformation as she tries out different optional story lines, and who clearly does not recognize all her biases or blindnesses, is nevertheless utterly reliable in that she explores honestly the emotional truths of each stage of her growth in understanding. She continuously re-casts her tale as the characters and events tangle and elude her, searching for a narrative framework that can accommodate her changing awareness. The novel is less about what happened than that people crucial to her life have colluded in various ways, with varying levels of active involvement, even across generations, to create great damage. Taking place during a five-month period, the narrator describes the process of coming to terms with her own trauma and that of her family. Liam, the family scapegoat and her own psychic double, takes with him her protection against the skeletons in her family's closet, and she has begun a dangerous emotional journey.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2015

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×