Anne Enright: The Green Road


The latest addition to my website is Anne Enright‘s The Green Road. Enright is definitely making a claim to be the best living Irish novelist and this novel will only add to her reputation. It tells the story of a contemporary, somewhat (but not too) dysfunctional family, the Madigans, who live in West Clare. At the start of the novel, Pat Madigan is dead and his widow, Rosaleen, is finding it difficult to adapt. The first part, called Leaving, is divided into five sections, one each for Rosaleen and her four children, Constance, Dan, Emmet and Hanna. As the title says, they are all on the way out, though not necessarily just yet, as the first section is devoted to Hanna, who is twelve in 1980, the period when her section is set. In each section a key but not necessarily life-changing event happens to the protagonist of that section. In Hanna’s section, we learn that her older brother, Dan, has decided to become a priest, to his mother’s horror though Hanna (and Dan’s girlfriend) do not seem overly concerned. By the second section, eleven years later, Dan has given up the priesthood and is dabbling in the New York gay scene. Emmet is in Mali, working for UNICEF, starting and ending a relationship, while Constance is married, caring for her mother and children and facing a lump in her breast. The second part sees them in 2005 reunited, unusually, for Christmas at the family home, which Rosaleen is planning to sell. Inevitably, tensions surface. Enright does a first-class job of dissecting a fairly ordinary Irish family which, by its own admission, has been far from successful, whether financially, professionally, personally or romantically.

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