Sister probes family secrets--
Glad I'm an only.
Enright's Booker Prize-winning depiction of nine surviving siblings at their brother's wake--resurrecting all the cruelty and chaos of their childhood--is searing. Veronica, the "responsible sister," struggles to cope with the details of her brother Liam's funeral, her resurfacing memories of long-ago events that may explain Liam's suicide, her crumbling marriage, and her own near-collapse. Her family, in general, hinders rather than helps her negotiate this essential passage from a past influenced by others into a life of her own.
Lambert Nugent, the charming destroyer of the piece, chills me still with his suave manners and deadly maneuvering. As depicted in Veronica's memory, he is a villain for the ages, justly inspiring revulsion and fear.
Enright can really turn a phrase. She juxtaposes time and space in a way that is never confusing and always strikes the right tone. She is a master at broadening the focus of a paragraph to suggest the bigger picture, without ever seeming trite or showy.
All the same, while I savored her phrases, I was ever so glad this wasn't my family. Glad I'm an only, indeed.
Ada did not pretend to notice him, at first. This may have been the polite thing to do, but also I think he would have had it from the start, this trick of not existing much. And the rages he suffered in later life must have been, in 1925, the usual run of passions and young hopes. If Nugent suffered from anything, in those early days, it was decency. He was a decent man. He was not a man much used to hotels. He was not used to women who showed such twitching precision in the way they worked a glove. There was nothing in his history to prepare him for Ada Merriman. But, he was surprised to find, he was ready for her all the same.