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Book Review : The Green Road by Anne Enright

11th August, 2016

Book Review : The Green Road by Anne Enright

Set in a small town on Ireland’s Atlantic coast, The Green Road is a tale of family bonds and relationships. Told in two parts, ‘Leaving’ and ‘Coming Home’, this novel is a slow tale of a family spanning over thirty years.

IN BRIEF :

I bought this book after seeing the stunning cover. Previously I had seen the grim grey cover and was not that impressed. When I saw this cover I felt it sums up childhood, family, sibling love – everything that would attract me to read a family story.

The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen and her children. As they grow up, Rosaleen’s four children leave the west of Ireland and end up in vastly different kind of lifestyles. Constance is overweight, has health problems and a marriage to deal with; Hannah, the pretty one, is now an alcoholic; Emmet tries to makes the lives of those in developing countries better while his own personal life is in shambles and Dan, who wanted to be a priest as a child ends up in New York, marries his childhood sweetheart, later gets entangled in a string of affairs with other men.

In her early old age Rosaleen announces that she has decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas. The reunion reminds them of bonds forgotten and helps them retrospect on their own lives as well.

HIGHLIGHTS :

1. THE WRITING :

I adored the first chapter. I almost fell in love with the book then and there. The scenes where the children sit around the table for dinner and when the family slaughters a hen to cook, I was transported to the childhood scenes that I have encountered in my life. And when a book does that in a few words, it is worth something. The chapter  made me feel how similar families are, in spite of being geographically so apart.

2. THE STRUCTURE :

Each chapter is narrated by one of Rosaleen’s children. The next chapter does not begin where the last one ends. Between each of the chapters time races forward through years. The first and second chapters are set apart by eleven years.  I found this structure wondrous and fulfilling without being boring. And each chapter feels connected to the ones before and after as well without any awkward breaks.

3. DISTINCTION IN VOICES :

Writers often fall into the black hole of making all their characters sound the same. Not Anne Enright. Each character is distinct and wholesome throughout the book.

4. THE ENDING :

The ending is adorably realistic. No one gets those fantastic revelations; there is no happily ever after. There is happiness mingled with sorrow, just like any family’s real story.

Book Review : The Green Road by Anne Enright

WHAT I DISLIKED :

1. THE WRITING :

You might ask, “Wait, you just told us the writing is brilliant in the first chapter.” It is. But the style of writing undergoes a drastic change after the first chapter. I felt as if it was no longer the same person who wrote the latter chapters. The first chapter has a certain charming descriptive beauty. It regains the beauty in the last chapter, but by then it is too late to be awestruck by the book.

2. LACK OF DEPTH :

We see vignettes of the lives of all the children. But I couldn’t feel a connection to the characters. I did not feel the sorrow or the happiness I should have felt for them.

However, the novel does point out the inherent sibling rivalry, partiality of a mother to one of her children and other flaws in humans in a subtle and powerful way.

3. DAN :

I was really put off by Dan. Which is a shame as he has a chunk of lime light in the book. He doesn’t seem like a guy who would fool around from Enright’s descriptions, yet he gets involved with other men, but never in a meaningful relationship, more of in an ‘only-sex kind of connections’. He seemed like a light headed, non-convincing LGBT character who himself doesn’t know what his aspirations are.

FINAL VERDICT :

I loved the first and last chapters. The middle is a good read, but not spectacular. Or perhaps this book isn’t for me. I would recommend if you enjoy stories about  dynamics of large families.

This book was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 and 2015 Costa Novel Award; longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize; and is winner of the Irish Novel of the Year 2015. So don’t be put off by this review.

Title : The Green Road
Author : Anne Enright
Publisher : Vintage
Published : 2016 (Originally 2015)
Language : English
Pages : 320
Rating : 3/5

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Have you read The Green Road? Or do you have a suggestion for an Enright novel for me to try out?

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The Green Road

About the Author

Anne Teresa Enright is an Irish author. Before winning the Man Booker Prize for The Gathering in 2007, Enright had a low profile in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Her writing explores themes such as family relationships, love and Ireland’s difficult past.

This Post Has 19 Comments
  1. That book cover is so adorable and delightful! The structure of the book seems really interesting — I love books that jump around in time (when they are well executed, that is!), and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. Hm… I’d be interested to see a list of books with interesting narrative structures. I especially loved the structure of The God of Small Things. However, your comments on the writing past the first chapter has me thinking that I’ll have to pass on this book. Or maybe I’ll just read the first and last chapters next time I’m in a bookstore!

  2. I haven’t read this, or anything by this author. I love family stories, though, so this may be a book I’d enjoy. I’m gonna check out some more reviews, and see if it would be for me. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I always enjoy reading your reviews because they are so honest. The premise of the story sounds very good, but I could easily see myself being bothered by the same things that bothered you.

  4. While I agree with your view about how brilliantly this book starts and ends ( and even agree a bit about Dan who irritated me at times), I also loved every bit in between the first and last chapters so overall I loved it! Mind you I have to confess I’m an Ann Enright fan so I even bought the version with the miserable grey cover!!!!

    1. Thank you. The numbers might be high since I read graphic novels and short stories as well. Also I sometimes do reviews of books I have read in the past. Then again I dont do anything else much other than reading. So TV time is really really less.

  5. It’s a shame the writing style changed so drastically so quickly! Have you read other reviews from bloggers for this book and did they express the same trouble with their writing style?
    Hmm, I am a little disappointed with Dan’s portrayal as well. I’d have to read the book myself to really evaluate his portrayal, but it’s not looking too good from the way you put it.

  6. I’m probably giving tis a miss. Not just because of your review but because it probably isn’t my king of book but your review has certainly made sure I won’t change my mind. I hate it when writers can’t keep up the similarity within a book 🙁

  7. I think her crafting is amazing, but I do find her stories difficult to read at times (so real, so powerful, so “under my skin”). The Forgotten Waltz, about the struggle to keep a marriage in working order, and The Gathering, about grieving: both so good, both so hard. This one sounds good to me, but I will have to be in the right frame of mind to pull it off the shelf!

  8. I read Anne Enright’s The Gathering and it was incredibly depressing. Her short story compilation – Yesterday’s Weather had some really good stories in them. In my mind, she is the Irish Jhumpa Lahiri, much celebrated, but I far prefer her shorts to her full-length novels.

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