Magazine article The Spectator

'The Green Road', by Anne Enright - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'The Green Road', by Anne Enright - Review

Article excerpt

The Green Road Anne Enright

Cape, pp.320, £16.99, ISBN: 9780224089050

The Green Road is a novel in two parts about leaving and returning home. A big house called Ardeevin, walking distance from an unnamed town on the coastline of County Clare, is home to the Madigan family. At the centre of the family is Rosaleen Madigan, the matriarch: 'A woman who did nothing and expected everything. She sat in this house, year after year, and she expected.'

The novel begins with the thwarting of one of Rosaleen's expectations. She has taken to her bed in 1980 after Dan, the eldest of her four children, has announced that he is going to become a priest. Each of the first four chapters focuses on a Madigan sibling -- Hanna, Dan, Constance, Emmet -- and maps the escape routes they take out of rural Ireland in adult life.

The sibling stories span the years 1980-2002 and locations as diverse as Limerick, New York and Ségou, Mali. Aside from faint family resemblances, these could be separate short stories. Dan turns out to be a 'spoilt priest', abandoning his seminary for life in New York's gay community at the height of the Aids epidemic: 'We did not want to be loved when we got sick, because that would be unbearable, and love was all we looked for, in our last days.'

Emmet leads an itinerant life as an aid worker, failing to settle in Ségou with his kind-hearted girlfriend. Both are drawn to suffering. 'He wanted to tell her that starvation does not smell sweet, the way death smells sweet. There's a chemical edge to it, like walking past the hairdresser's at home. …

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