A lyrical meditation on memory and connectedness involving three generations of an Irish family.
In her fourth novel (The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch, 2003, etc.), Enright seamlessly melds past and present, childhood and struggling maturity, death and earthy life, in Veronica Hegarty’s looping account of her blood line. Her mother bore 12 children and suffered seven miscarriages, yet it is a single death, of Veronica’s troubled older brother Liam, which pulls the narrative together. The discovery of his body in the sea at Brighton (an English resort town) with stones in his pockets triggers a kind of breakdown in Veronica. It ignites a long-brewing crisis in her marriage, and it releases a flood of memories: Liam visiting her after the birth of one of her two daughters; Liam on a childhood trip to the seaside via a visit to a relative in an insane asylum; Liam being sexually abused by Nugent, a friend of their grandparents, Ada and Charlie. Veronica’s insomnia after the bereavement leads her to start writing a version of Ada’s life, speculating on an affair between Ada and Nugent. Veronica’s own sexual history plays a part too, as well as her hunger for “a larger life.” Like Ali Smith, Enright is an original. Her poetic, often lovely phrasing and surprising perspectives create a distinctive mood, and her novel subtly links the Hegartys in a chain of damage, regret and finally continuity.
A dreamy, melancholy swirl of a story, wise about the bonds and burdens linking children to each other and their grown selves.