To say this book is a tragicomic Irish family saga boxes it all a bit too neatly and doesn’t remotely do justice to the book or the author.
Rosaleen, the Madigan matriarch, asks her four children to come home for one last family Christmas. One of her sons is living in New York pretending to be straight and planning for his wedding to a nice girl while shagging guys at Fire Island. The other son is a self absorbed foreign aid worker in Mali. The youngest daughter is a raging alcoholic and the other is mum of three, otherwise fairly functional. This year Christmas dinner ends with the Madigan family tradition – with Rosaleen Madigan in tears over “the ungrateful children [she’s] raised.”
Enright’s craftsmanship is genius. I admire how she introduced each character. Dan’s (Rosaleen Madigan’s oldest son), personality is closeted from us while he is closeting important parts of his life from his family. As long as Dan is in denial about who he is we don’t get to know him either.
Dan’s siblings are not quite so obscure. We find Emmet who sees his surrounds through the lens of a medical textbook. Constance (her naming cannot be by chance) is facing mortality in the waiting room of a medical facility. We meet Hanna passed out on the floor of her kitchen. Like a film using a single camera angle Enright exposes the characters to us, showing a single side of each until they begin to come together in three dimensions.
Enright’s prose is beautiful. And here the audiobook offers something very special that the print version cannot. Rather than the single dimension of having one narrator, the audiobook uses three. It is pure magic. Alana Kerr has an enchanting accent, gorgeous timing and inflection. Lloyd Jones and Gerard Doyle each add depth and the three narrators are well matched for this project. Their narration brings the family to life and makes the book even more special.
This book must be a contender for the Man Booker Prize this year. It has winner written all over it. For me, this may be the audiobook of the year. It’s charming, it’s delightful and it is absolutely engaging. It will be a great read for years to come.
The Green Road (unabridged audiobook) • by Anne Enright • narrated by Alana Kerr, Lloyd Jones and Gerard Doyle • 9.8 hours • published by Blackstone Audio • 2015