The Green Road by Anne Enright
|The Green Road by Anne Enright|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The story of an Irish family mwhich reads almost like a series of interlinked short stories, but because the author is Anne Enright, that makes the book something rather special. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320/9h37m||Date: May 2015|
|Publisher: Jonathan Cape|
|External links: Author's website|
Shortlisted: Costa Novel Award 2015
Shortlisted for the 2016 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
The Green Road is the story of a family. If the author was anyone other than Anne Enright it would be stereotypically Irish, with all the appropriate characters in place: the boy who goes off to be a priest, the daughter who likes the bottle far too much, the son who does good works and the woman who stays back where she was born and marries a local man, the dead husband who was perhaps just a little bit beneath the wife who plays the grande dame and is perfect at being needy, whilst all the while maintaining that she needs nothing. But, of course, it is Anne Enright.
The story is told, for the most part, in the third person but from the perspective of the individual family members, which gives the book the feel of a series of interlinked short stories - a format at which Enright excels. I recently listened to an audio download of The Gathering which won the Booker Prize in 2007 and it was this, plus the fact that The Green Road is shortlisted for the 2015 Costa Novel Award which tempted me to listen to the book.
There are just the five remaining adult members of the Madigan family. Widowed Rosaleen makes no bones about being the matriarch, but achieves her ends by manipulation. Occasionally you wonder if what she does is deliberate and then you chide yourself. Of course it is. Emmet is the eldest child, with a background of charitable work in the third world and something of a problem with commitment. Constance has commitment - too much of it on occasions, as she juggles the demands of home, family and her mother whilst being reluctantly proud of and occasionally embarrassed by the Lexus she dives. Dan went to be a priest: we don't find out what happened but he describes himself as a spoilt priest and we soon meet him in New York struggling to work out whether he's straight or gay. Hanna is a some-time actress, mother and regular drunk.
Usually I love Enright for her evocations of Ireland, but this time I was stunned by her descriptions of the New York art scene in the nineteen nineties: there was a verve to the telling which made me go through that section again. I was less convinced by Emmet in Mali, but this was more than redeemed by the pieces set in Ireland, particularly the materialism of Hanna's life in Dublin. When we meet the five Madigans together it is at Christmas, brought home by Rosaleen's royal command and the threat that she is about to sell the family home.
Enright is clever: she trusts her readers to fill in a lot of gaps in the stories she tells, to work out for ourselves quite how someone came to be as they are and where they are. The book is relatively short at 320 pages, but the stories you will tell yourself will make it twice as long.
I listened to an audio download of the book, narrated by Caroline Lennon and it was superb. She delivered each voice perfectly and her timing was excellent. With more literary books I occasionally worry that interposing a narrator adds interpretations which the author might not have intended, but the thought never crossed my mind as I listened. This is the point at which I normally thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag - but I bought the download myself and it was worth every penny.
For another 2015 Costa-shortlisted book, which I also listened to as an audio download, we can recommend A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson.
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You could get a free audio download of The Green Road by Anne Enright with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Green Road by Anne Enright at Amazon.com.
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