Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Gathering by Anne Enright - Or How To Not Read A Book Club Book

Originally written 13 February 2015
The Gathering
Anne Enright

Reading Challenges
Book Club

About The Book
The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan gather in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother Liam. It wasn’t the drink that killed him – although that certainly helped – it was what happened to him as a boy in his grandmother’s house, in the winter of 1968. His sister Veronica was there then, as she is now: keeping the dead man company, just for another little while.

The Gathering is a family epic, condensed and clarified through the remarkable lens of Anne Enright’s unblinking eye. It is also a sexual history: tracing the line of hurt and redemption through three generations – starting with the grandmother, Ada Merriman – showing how memories warp and family secrets fester. This is a novel about love and disappointment, about thwarted lust and limitless desire, and how our fate is written in the body, not in the stars.

My Thoughts
Congratulations to Anne Enright for being named the inaugural Irish Fiction Laureate. By coincidence the February book for the 1st Wednesday book group is The Gathering by Anne Enright.

I started reading The Gathering three weeks before book club and then put it down when I got to 18% because I didn't want to finish it too soon. I read 18% quite quickly and was enjoying the story. In the meantime I read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, and The Waiting Room by Gabrielle Carey. Right, back to The Gathering. I picked it up where I left off, but had lost the flow. Just as well I had the day off on the Monday before book club. I'll just read something else and finish it on Monday... So I started The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, but put it down again on Sunday to pick up The Gathering again. Only I didn't get to sit down to read like I wanted to as we had to fix our broken toilet. This required two trips to Bunnings on Sunday and another trip on Monday but has resulted in a nice leak free toilet! When I did sit down to read, I just couldn't get into the story.

So on Monday I didn't get to sit down and read either. Although I did progress to 49%. I was starting to get back into it on the train trip to work this morning, but the train trip wasn't long enough. It is now Tuesday afternoon, book club is on Wednesday at 10.30am.

Luckily I have read this book before. I can remember the overarching story but, as I've been reading, I feel like I haven't read it before at all.

On a side note... The latest negative thing about e-readers is that people don't remember what they've read because of distractions, namely the internet on their device. I say, it has more to do with the reader being distracted whatever it is they are reading on! As the above can testify to. It has nothing to do with my ereader, or book and everything to do with my lack of motivation to read to a dead line and my outstanding ability to procrastinate! Did I need to go on every trip to Bunnings? No. I should have just got on and read the book instead of reading anything else!

I did feel an odd connection with the main character in the book, because she is about my age. Only we are at completely different stages in life. It is weird feeling a connection like that with a fictional character, but at the same time not so weird.

The Gathering did generate a great discussion in the book group, although one member was wondering why someone would write a book about death and having a dead body laid out in their home. The others however, didn't agree. They enjoyed the book. Although enjoy seems to be the wrong word for it.

I must have like the book when I first read it, as I have in my collection two of her short stories collections, one I'm sure I've read. I have also read and enjoyed her novel The Forgotten Waltz.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Waiting Room by Gabrielle Carey

The Waiting Room
Gabrielle Carey
Scribe, 2009

About The Book
Intimately exploring the complex dynamics of a complicated mother-daughter relationship, this sharp and honest memoir tells the story of a woman who is forced to begin asking some of life’s difficult questions—such as to what extent are people's lives determined by their genetic heritage?—when her mother is diagnosed with a serious brain tumor that must be operated on immediately. While biding the dreadful passage of time in the hospital waiting room, Gabrielle Carey begins to realize how much her mother has left untold, how many questions she still wants to ask her, and how little time there is left for the answers. Amid organizing appointments, looking after her own children, and battling her mother’s stubbornly principled idea that she should be left to die, Gabrielle begins to voice the unasked, attempting to discover the mother she has lived with all her life but never truly known and ultimately uncovering just how much her family stands to gain when they let each other in

My Thoughts
Last year I read Walking With Strangers by Gabrielle Carey, which is a sort of sequel to The Waiting Room. I enjoyed reading Walking Amongst Strangers as part of it was about Australian writer Randolph Stowe. It is about Joan Carey's relationship with her family in W.A and in particular her relationship with Randolph Stow. In The Waiting Room, Joan has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. This book is also about family relationships, with Gabrielle realising that she doesn't know much about her mother's past. This is in part due to the fact that her mother isn't a talker. She hasn't come from a family tradition of talking about things.

This is one respect I completely identify with Gabrielle's relationship with her mother. Although, I suspect that is my fault as well, that in my family there wasn't a tradition of talking about things in my family either. As we have gotten older though, in particular since my husband who is a talker came on the scene, there has been more storytelling.

This was a very touching book about the relationship between daughters and mothers. As Gabrielle examines her relationship with her mother, she is also forced to look at her relationship with her teenage daughter.

I really enjoy reading Gabrielle's memoirs, although enjoy isn't quite the right word. I think I will continue to go backwards through her books.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn
Read in 2015


About The Book
In 1349, one small town in Germany disappeared and was never resettled. Tom, a contemporary historian, and his theoretical-physicist girlfriend, Sharon, become interested. By all logic, the town should have survived, but it didn't. Why? What was special about Eifelheim that it utterly disappeared more than 600 years ago?
In 1348, as the Black Death is gathering strength across Europe, Father Deitrich is the priest of the village that will come to be known as Eifelheim. A man educated in science and philosophy, he is astonished to become the first contact between humanity and an alien race from a distant star when their interstellar ship crashes in the nearby forest.
Tom, Sharon, and Father Deitrich have a strange and intertwined destiny of tragedy and triumph in this brilliant novel by the winner of the Robert A. Heinlein Award.

My Thoughts
I wasn't sure how I felt about this book while reading it. It didn't live up to the standards set by The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, but after I finished it I missed the characters. As we drove to dinner with friends on Saturday night I felt a bit dazed at being in 21st century Sydney and not 14th century Germany. I particularly liked Pastor Dietrich, who like all good religious men of the time have a bit of a non religious history. We don't find out completely what that past was, but are given tantalising hints. He sort of reminded me of Brother Cadfael from the Ellis Peters series.

I am beginning to feel that the novel could have been written without the contemporary storyline. Although I quite enjoyed the physics and history parts of it, the relationship between Tom and Sharon was confusing. And half the time I couldn't understand what Tom was saying because he spoke in German? I think it's German... but I may have missed the bit where it explained his cultural background... Anyway I don't read German.