Cover to cover, this book is memorable for so many reasons.
From a writer's perspective it is one of those you know you will learn from. It's just so good. The writing is brilliant, the whole peeling away layers of character, layers of story, until the centre is reached. And it's a sad centre, but one that does not surprise when it comes.
The reader becomes part of The Gathering. Complicit, judgemental as much as they are. You become so aware of the people, the tensions, always tensions, the small cruelties.
Enright says somewhere in the book that people don't change, they reveal themselves. I went to sleep last night with that thought uppermost in my mind. And how, if I can take one thing away from this book as a writer, it's a deeper understanding that character is story.
One of the things that creates character is voice. And here, the voice is true, straight, unmanipulative.
I was fascinated to see on The Guradian book blog from the time of the Booker award, more than a little sniping about The Gathering. Assertions were made that Animal's People was a far better book.
I bought Animal's People at the time, rather than the winner, because it sounded fascinating.
I couldn't get into it, and have not read right through. I felt overtly manupulated by the writer, who was all over the pages like spilled soup. The voice was nothing... not coherent, not authentic in character, far far too aware, articulate, educated for the character it was meant to be portraying... it did not hold up to much scrutiny, and I can understand why it didn't win.
I felt manipulated too by the 'feeling' behind the book.. 'Lets create a really misshapen Calibanesque person... make him say 'Fuck' every few paragraphs... that'll sell!!"
and it does sell, sure, but it's not good enough.
At no point in The Gathering did I feel I was being manipulated. I felt I was instead in the hands of a strong, interesting intelligent writer who didn't need to use sensationalism to sell her story to me. When the revelations come, as they do, they are lightly done, as is the whole. Clever. I saw what happened as a child would see it, and as an adult. And far more importantly, as a reader... I was not fed the scenes cut up piecemeal, delivered in primary colours for me to watch like a bad B movie.
I was led to the scenes, slowly but inexorably downhill, so my feet wouldn't stop. And I was complicit, because I met the writer halfway.