The Green Road

I’m a bit behind getting to this one – even though I’m a fan of Anne Enright’s work, it was only when I heard recently that The Green Road had made the Booker longlist that I reminded myself to get hold of it. I had heard some of it featured on The Book on One on RTE Radio 1 some weeks ago, when my imagination was caught by episodes like Constance’s visit to the breast clinic and Rosaleen’s writing of Christmas cards to her absent children, so I was really looking forward to getting stuck into the novel.

I wasn’t disappointed. I always tend to enjoy multi-viewpoint narration, and Enright’s presentation of the various members of the Madigan family is fascinating. I found Dan, the reluctant homosexual, Constance, the dutiful eldest daughter and of course, the matriarch, Rosaleen, to be the most engaging characters, but also found my curiosity aroused by peripheral characters like Uncle Bart and of course, Pat Madigan, whose influence in the story is considerable, despite the fact that we don’t really meet him at all. The prequel would be interesting…

At the heart of the novel is a very ordinary drama, the tension between a mother and her grown-up children, but Enright’s touch makes it utterly compelling. I found the Christmas night scene, where Rosaleen takes to the road, particularly unforgettable – the juxtaposition of the tension inside the house and Rosaleen’s anguished journey outside in the wild darkness would make fantastic cinema. The sheer Irishness of the novel is also undeniable and attractive – the theme of family may be universal, but elements such as Hanna’s drinking, Dan’s issues with his own homosexuality and Constance’s pride in her husband and children at the expense of her own personal fulfillment, situate it firmly as a novel of Ireland.

I can’t really pin down what I liked so much about this novel (I would say I could identify to some extent with the Constance-Rosaleen relationship if I was sure that my mother wasn’t reading this!) but I just didn’t want it to end. I’m normally a binge-reader when I have the time, and like to read a book from start to finish as quickly as possible, but I found myself deliberately limiting the time I spent reading The Green Road in some kind of futile attempt to delay the ending… And when you find yourself dreaming about the characters in a novel, as I did with this one, you know you’re definitely hooked!

If I were awarding stars, I’d give this one five – read it now, you won’t be disappointed!

The Man Booker Prize shortlist will be announced on September 15th, and the full longlist is as follows:

Author (nationality) – Title (imprint)

Bill Clegg (US) – Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape)

Anne Enright (Ireland) – The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)

Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings(Oneworld Publications)

Laila Lalami (US) – The Moor’s Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)

Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)

Andrew O’Hagan (UK) – The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)

Marilynne Robinson (US) – Lila (Virago)

Anuradha Roy (India) – Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus)

Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways (Picador)

Anna Smaill (New Zealand) – The Chimes (Sceptre)

Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)

Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador)