Monday, July 20, 2015

The Green Road by Anne Enright

I think this is the last of the Ireland based books that I decided to read in anticipation of my trip there (this one took a while to get from the library so I ended up reading it after the trip).  The good thing about reading it later is a lot of the geographical descriptions were now of familiar places so I could visualize them better.

I didn't love the book, but it got better as it went on.  It starts in Ireland when Rosalyn Madigan is a mother of four teenaged and young adult children.  We get a glimpse of her depressive behaviour when her eldest son, Dan, announces that he is to become a priest and she takes to her bed for days.  This part is reasonably interesting.

The book then fast forwards eleven years and we see that in fact Dan is not a priest but is living and working in New York - and spending tremendous energy denying his sexual orientation.  This chapter which deals with the New York AIDS scene in the early nineties, as well as the next one which follows Dan's brother Emmet as he partakes in African humanitarian work, are not nearly as interesting as the later chapters where the family returns to Ireland.  Enright's strength lies in her descriptions of Ireland as well as her capturing of the complicated family dynamic - which really works best when the family is all back together again one Christmas.

The relationship the siblings have with each other, and more importantly their mother, is at the heart of this book.  I'm glad I read the whole thing but I almost put it down while I was trying to force myself through the New York section which had so may characters that were hard to keep track of and not sufficiently developed to remember who was who.  But how the children turned out as adults - and the impact their mother's personality had on them is interesting - particularly when they fear something has happened to their mother and must pull together to save her.

I only recommend this book if you have time and patience and an interest in complicated family dynamics.

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