Entertainment Editor, Izzy Brann, gives us an overview of Anne Enright’s recent visit.
On Wednesday 30th October, Loughborough University played host to Booker Prize winning author, Anne Enright, as part of the ‘Big Booker Read’. The event was the first of its kind on campus, celebrating the new partnership of the University with the Booker Prize Foundation, an initiative to encourage greater engagement of students with award winning contemporary fiction. Authors including Hilary Mantel, Sarah Waters and Enright herself are involved with the scheme, visiting universities across the UK to discuss celebrated novels.
This event was centred around Enright’s The Gathering, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2007. Free copies of the novel have been available across campus since the start of the academic year.
Lecturers, students and members of the public all came together on the evening to hear Enright read from the opening of her moving novel (even if with a self-confessed ‘hamminess’ provided by a sore throat). The opening came alive in the author’s voice, and it was a riveting reading. Despite its prestige, Enright’s focus upon family, mental health and identity is accessible to all- but that’s not how she sees it.
Enright wrote The Gathering between 2003 and 2007, initially planning an ‘historical romp’ set in 1920s Dublin, during the fall of the red-light district. She wanted to focus upon the ideas of history and memory; the Hegarty family of the novel came secondarily. The family came when looking into the idea of tracing ‘original sin’ that could trace through the line and at a point of writers’ block, when it seemed everything was falling apart. Enright describes how she put all her own ‘falling apart’ into Veronica, her narrator, who has to come to terms with her brother’s death and her family history. The resulting novel is one of juxtaposition of past and present trauma, switching between present day and the 1920s narrative of Veronica’s grandparents.
Enright’s use of juxtaposition was a key conversation point in the following Q&A session; why choose to embed humour in tragedy? Why discuss parents ‘humping’ in the wake of a brother’s death? Looking to Joyce for inspiration, Enright described how her novel was ‘built by juxtaposition, and more of a lyrical process’, using specific language and ideas to create the uniquely bitter tone. ‘I like a reader who can take up a dance’, Enright finished, in a fitting response to her critics.