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The Green Road

The Green Road

Book - 2015
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"Spanning thirty years and three continents, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigan family, and her four children" -- provided by publisher.
"Ardeevin, County Clare, Ireland. 1980. When her oldest brother Dan announces he will enter the priesthood, young Hanna watches her mother howl in agony and retreat to her room. In the years that follow, the Madigan children leave one by one: Dan for the frenzy of New York under the shadow of AIDS; Constance for a hospital in Limerick, where petty antics follow simple tragedy; Emmet for the backlands of Mali, where he learns the fragility of love and order; and Hanna for modern-day Dublin and the trials of her own motherhood. When Christmas Day reunites the children under one roof, each confronts the terrible weight of family ties and the journey that brought them home" -- provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2015]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780393248210
Branch Call Number: FICTION ENRIGHT
Characteristics: 309 p. ; 25 cm.


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May 08, 2021

The literary world holds a special place for Irish writers. Their Gaelic inspired prose flows off the page as easily as it falls from the tongue. At once cumbersome and lyrical, the Irish brogue can be easy on the ears, but hard on the eyes. It's easy to generalize Irish literature as tragedy, and considering the emerald isle's history, that's understandable. Yet, the Irish yarn is so much more than that. Mark Twain once observed, "Inside of the dullest exterior there is drama, a comedy and a tragedy." Although he wasn't talking about Irish writing, he might as well have been, as nothing better describes literature sprang from Irish roots.

Upon reading Anne Enright, one gets the impression she has a gift for gab. She takes her time with characters, building them with meticulous precision until they leap off the page at you. This sort of attention to detail has won her numerous accolades, including the Man Booker Prize, and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. With THE GREEN ROAD (W.W. Norton & Co., $15.95), she continues that tradition.

THE GREEN ROAD centers on Ardeevin, the name given to the Madigan estate. Although the home is nothing grand, the "estate" is real enough; a nice chunk of property which looms large as a character in itself over the span of twenty five years in which the story takes place. The Madigans, we learn, are a complicated bunch, each running from demons - it would seem - of their own making.

The first half of the book (which the author has desIgnated as Part One) is about leaving. Whether it's leaving home, or abandoning dreams, or literally running away from oneself, the Madigans are on the move. While its focus is on the Madigan children, the matriarch of the family is central to the plot, an immovable object in the face of change. A difficult subject, which Enright handles with a sense of compassion and moving lyricism.

As the novel progresses, we come to know the characters. Enright is meticulous in her writing, but with a natural ease to it. She iterates, then reiterates, peeling back another layer, further revealing more character with each repetition. She's hypnotizing in her process, leaving the reader with a sense of surprise when we've realized how thoroughly the characters are known to us. It's a familiarity lesser writers find hard to relay.

Part Two of Enright's story takes place twenty five years after it began. It focuses on a homecoming during the holidays, in which whatever hope there may have been for patching up the family is all but dashed. Mostly long estranged from one another, the holidays drive home a sense of failure and abandonment in the Madigans enough to drive everybody batsh*t crazy. The kids (adults now) are participating out of a sense of guilty duty to Rosaleen, their mother, and clearly only minimally tolerate her at best. Rosaleen, for her part, antagonizes them with an overriding sense of non-appreciative thanklessness.

"The [gift] was even better here in the living room than it had been in the shop and Rosaleen was almost put out, it looked so well in the winter light. She set it across her shoulders and picked at the fabric . . . Rosalyn hated being upstaged by her own clothes. It was a rule. Vulgarity she called it, but the scarf was not vulgar, it was entirely discreet . . . Rosaleen bunched up the 'lilac shawl', annoyed . . . She chucked it into the easy chair by the fireplace and was cross with herself then, because her children were all looking at her."

It's a ploy for attention, of course, and though selfish at its core, her neglectfulness is the impetus that brings into focus the priorities of everyone present. By the final page, after a Christmas like no other, though their problems are numerous and to the naked eye unfixable, the Madigans are at least looking at themselves with a heightened level of honesty. Yes, they're broken. Yes, they're dysfunctional. And yes, they may not be beyond repair.

Jul 12, 2020

the chapter "Dan" was so tiresome that I could not go any further in the book. the chapter was boring...maybe, if it had been published in 1982 , the subject of AIDS and male attraction would have been more interesting than it is today.

Mar 30, 2017

Enright is a remarkable writer – crisp, sometimes humorous, and beautifully controlled with the Irish drama as we follow the inter-family complexities. The author’s voice is so authentic as she switches locales and time periods, fleshing out each character and their intertwined lives over a thirty year period. Great storytelling. Emotionally charged.

Sep 28, 2016

I've just read 'the Green Road' and am impressed. Not with all. Not as a novel, and the climax was no such thing. But Rosaleen's `story' by itself was good poetry again and again, it brought me to tears more than once, and the strong sense that this was a real family with real connections to a real woman kept me in it, to the end.

Sep 12, 2016

Set in County Clare, this novel tells the story of a mother and her four children, each story told separately, almost like a short story. They come together as adults at Christmas. Each character is broken in some way, but is partially restored by his or her family. The backdrop to the novel is the negative impact of the "Celtic Tiger" on Ireland. Lovely to read, like all of Enright's books.

May 16, 2016

Liked this book a lot. I could feel each character so clearly and was able to give each a face and way of being. Loved the complete "Irishness" of the story and the land. Will look for another of her writings.

Feb 25, 2016

This book captured Irish life pretty well. The gathering of family at Christmas (for some out of obligation), the gathering of neighbours to help when help was needed. This is true to form. There were 2 parts they really stick out to me as typical Irish. The first was how well described it was for Constantine going through the supermarket buying food but forgetting something and feeling so guilty about it, she had to go back in among the throng. You already know she doesn't have time for this but it's easier than listening to everyone complain after. The second was how well Emmett, in seeing the bigger world view, described the world view of his mother (page 212-213). That was well described!

The only thing I didn't like was that I felt the treatment of boys v girls about 10-20 years behind the times e.g. girls cleaning up after dinner, but the boys allowed off to do what they liked. This would not have been typical of this generation.

Dec 20, 2015

Just grabbed this book off the "hot new books" or whatever its called shelf on the way out the door of the library. Ireland, family, homecoming, etc. Hmmm, sounds could I go wrong?

My latest technique in reading books is flipping open to the middle somewhere and reading a paragraph or two. If it grabs, then its a go.

With this story, I open up to the page where someone named Dan is jumping into bed with some guy named Loco or Ludo (?)in an interestingly junk-filled house for masochistic sex. Which Dan, apparently, doesn't like.

Well, neither do I.

Back to the library it goes.

Nov 25, 2015

Excellent book. Captures the joy and heartbreak and nastiness and warmth of family relationships, especially those between mother and child.

Jul 08, 2015

Ho Hum.
The story is fine. I expected better writing: though I don't like when an author is labouring to impress the reader, I do like to read the occasional sentence that I think was well crafted and that I want to re-read and squeeze the loveliness or cleverness from. This never happened in The Green Road.

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May 08, 2021

Inside of the dullest exterior there is drama, a comedy and a tragedy."
-Mark Twain

Feb 25, 2016

"Emmett blamed his mother. You could tell Rosaleen about disease, war and mudslides and she would look faintly puzzled, because there were, clearly, much more interesting things happening in the County Clare.... A local gossip, that is what his mother allowed, and only of a particular kind. Marriages, deaths, accidents: she lived for a head-on collision, a bad bend in the road. Her own ailments of course, other people's diseases".


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May 08, 2021

With THE GREEN ROAD, Anne Enright proves her mettle for contemporary fiction. Her attention to character is unsurpassed; her gift for gab, refreshing. On reading her, it's easy to imagine the story being told in a brogue, lilting and thick with history. No wonder THE GREEN ROAD received the Irish Book Awards' Novel of the Year.


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