Anne Enright is mining the themes of family life in The Green Road, another magnificent piece of work from one of Ireland’s very finest authors. It’s hard to believe this hasn’t scooped a rake of major awards.
The Madigan household is in Ardeevin, Co Clare but the book sweeps across continents and time to tell the story of this family, one typical of the Irish experience with families scattered all over the world, living very different lives.
It picks out the issues that affect many families, that sense of distance, with the mother able to speak to the kids about the others, but not to the individuals themselves. Rosaleen takes to her bed after finding out her son is to become a priest and she seems depressed since the death of her husband but trucks on without antidepressants. There’s real sadness here with Enright’s attention to detail saying so much about the experience of this family. We see Rosaleen writing cards at the table with a broken clock, nobody around to fix it for her and a real sense that she’s driven people away. She wonders how they’d feel if she’s left them as they’d done to her.
Her children aren’t wealthy people and she believes the house is worth more than they are. The house holds so many memories for them and is the point they would all return, as they have done her for one final Christmas in the home. Her daughter Constance is trying to get her to sign land over to her and Dessie. There’s a lot of talk about property prices, people are throwing money about the place.
There’s so much packed into this book, taking in the AIDS crisis in New York, life in third-world and concerns about cancer. Enright is able to pinpoint things that get to the truth of life and this is certainly one of the best books that has been published in some time.