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Anne Enright Offers a Bleak Tale in 'The Gathering'

Book Tour is a Web feature and podcast. Each week, we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.

Ever since the first novel was written, fiction has visited its form on the dysfunctional family. Some bookstores even have shelves devoted exclusively to "tragic family books." And it's this familiar terrain that Irish writer Anne Enright heads for in The Gathering — a tightly wound epic tale that the Washington Post describes as a story "about marriage, sex, death, anger, memory, blame."

Enright's "unflinching look" at that territory caught the attention of the judges for the 2007 Man Booker Prize, who awarded The Gathering with Britain's highest literary honor. The panel described the novel as "powerful, uncomfortable and even at times, angry," but "very readable and satisfying."

Enright is the author of three previous novels, The Wig My Father Wore, What Are You Like? and The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch. She also published one book of nonfiction, Making Babies.

"I suppose I might admit to an interest, for the last few books, in blood, which is to say in family, biological connection; the way family begins in the body," she said in an interview last year.

One of Enright's inspirations for The Gathering was the juxtaposition of family as a source of pride in Ireland and also as "a very lonely place." She adds that, while "the book isn't autobiographical ... after two years or more writing the thing, it certainly felt as though it might be."

This reading of The Gathering took place in February of 2008 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Linda Kulman
Linda Kulman, the editor of NPR.org’s weekly feature Book Tour, is an avid reader, veteran journalist and writer living in Washington, D.C. She worked as a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report for a decade, where she reported for every section of the magazine. Most recently, she covered religion and consumer culture. Kulman’s book reviews have appeared in The Washington Post and on NPR.org. She has collaborated on four non-fiction books, working with a variety of notable figures. Early on in her career, she worked for several years as a fact checker at The New Yorker. Kulman also earned a degree from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.