Author: Anne Enright.
This was on my reading list for my Contemporary Irish Lit class and, along with Room (2010), were my favourite books from that module. I’d actually place both of them as favourites for this year as well. They’re both really exciting books from Irish authors.
The Green Road (2015) involves the lives of four siblings and their matriarchal mother Rosaleen. It shows the siblings as children and as adults and their relationship with their mother and their home. The first half of the novel highlights each sibling in a different part of their life: Hanna in Ardeevin, Co. Clare in 1980; Dan in New York in 1991; Constance in Co. Limerick (Wey!!) in 1997; Emmet in Ségou, Mali in 2002; and Rosaleen in Ardeevin, Co. Clare in 2005. Each is given their own narrative and we get a snapshot of their lives.
Hanna’s passage shows her as a child and Dan is about to leave for the priesthood.We get a quick insight into the Madigan household.
Dan’s passage involves his exploration of his homosexuality and his friendship to the LGBT community amid the backdrop of the AIDS crisis. This was my personal favourite section as it is beautifully written and portrayed. It’s a perfect mixture of sexual politics, drama and romance.
Constance’s passage is located in the city where I live, Limerick, so it was nice to see it being portrayed along with other international settings. Her narrative follows her as she tries to hold her family together and her dealing with a possible cancer scare.
Emmet’s narrative is located in exotic Mali where he is working as part of Doctors Without Borders (I think). It was good to have this quite contrasting location placed among the others. His life their is stressful as he has to deal with power outages and feral dogs along with his struggling romance.
We then swing back to Rosaleen, the mother, who is writing to her children that she is about to sell the house and expects them home for Christmas. I do love novels where we get connecting mini narratives that are a snapshot of people’s lives and then we jump to someone else. It’s a typical writing style of my favourite author David Mitchell, so this was perfect for me. Some people say this way of narration is a bit disjointed but I love it because, truth be told, I get bored easily so I like it when the narrative switches to a new setting with different characters.
The second part shows the siblings as adults as they are returning to Ardeevin. They are all nervous with going back to their childhood home and meeting again as adults. What they’re anticipating the most is their overbearing mother who clearly still sees them as children who she holds power over. I found this trope so interesting as it really hits home the fact the children have to leave their home in order to become individuals but when they return they are their parents children again. The Madigan children are immediately met with their mother’s expectations and beliefs.
I just loved this book. It was so engaged with modern subjectivity from gender roles, sexuality, health issues, emigration to multi-cultural Ireland, alcoholism, parenthood. Everything. It had everything, and it was about Ireland. It felt like a real Irish novel that could be held up at an international level. As you know, I have a problem with Irish authors who are stuck in the past, but this felt so tangible and so modern, that I was blown away. It’s a wonderful mixture of humour, drama, politics, romance and social commentary with a realistic cast of characters. Pick it up. You have to read it.