I could almost be in Dublin right now. It's 13 degrees and in the freezing rain I bike up to the beautiful Piano venue on Armagh Street, for the last event of the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season. Anne Enright, first Laureate for Irish Fiction, is here to talk about her book The Green Road.
Winner of Irish Novel of the Year, The Green Road is a family saga, reminiscent of Jack Kerouac's 'Great American Novel,' The Town and the City. Is this Enright's Great Irish Novel? Well she did get her prize...
Family, says Enright, are a common focus in many of her novels. Other common themes are the drinking father, the difficult mother, and the death of a parent or sibling. The Gathering, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2007, is about a family of nine who reunite for a funeral.
There's nothing brings a family together like a good funeral.
Often splitting her stories between characters before gathering the threads back together, Enright insightfully examines different perspectives of a common experience or issue.
The Forgotten Waltz, (a lyrical story about a love affair), is more introverted. Both lyrical and ironically funny, it follows Gina as she navigates her way through an affair, and the death of her mother. Apparently it has long been illegal in Irish culture to talk in the first person. "It's not about you...!"
Enright is part of a new canon of Irish writers who "write what they like," - she discovered women writers were overlooked in Ireland, and figured no-one would read her... so wrote for her own pleasure.
The landscape is a strong character too. Quietly dominating the prose at times, foreshadowing perhaps a storm to come in story:
"The sky was full of weather." (The Green Road).
Enright felt she could not write about it at first but remembered a connection with the cliffs around County Clare.
Enright is the first to say that she doesn't want to be "abouty". She means that she doesn't want each book to be about the same theme, though issues do inspire her.
When asked what inspired the story for The Forgotten Waltz, I was blindsided by her answer: the economic boom and bust of Ireland... the dishonesty and financial fallout of the affair being a vehicle for Irish investment in a failing property market... So there you go.
Enright's narrative voice charms the reader from the first paragraph. After a week of reading The Forgotten Waltz, my mind was speaking in brogue. So it was a pleasure to hear her read Hannah's trip along the Green road with her Da, and the dramatic scene around Holy Thursday dinner.
Her observations of human experience have been described as an unblinking eye. I see it more as winking. Like the Catholic Church, (nurturing, but subversive, 'you can't get out of it" she says,) her work is poignant, with the humour that comes along with the dramas of life.
- Find books by Anne Enright in our collection.
- More posts about the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season 2017
- See photos from the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season 2017