The Green Road is Anne Enright’s second novel since The Gathering won the Booker Prize in 2007. Stylistically and structurally, it is more demanding than either The Gathering or the novel that followed it, The Forgotten Waltz. Those books are first-person accounts, each told sufficiently in retrospect to open with revelations that point to the novel’s heart. The respective narrators, Veronica and Gina, are also arrangers, interpreting and analysing their stories as they tell them.
The Green Road doesn’t come with a tour guide. In summary, it’s simple enough. Part One, ‘Leaving’, moves in five jumps from 1980 to 2005, each chapter focused on one of the four Madigan siblings and their mother, Rosaleen. Part Two, ‘Coming Home’, is set in 2005, zooming in on the first Christmas the Madigans have spent together in years. Most chapter titles are functional: ‘Hanna – Ardeevin, Co Clare 1980’. But actually reading The Green Road is a distinctly map-less experience: you are dropped into the alien landscape of the Madigan family and left to familiarise yourself with the terrain. It is a slow process yet a profoundly satisfying one. Enright has written yet another wise and sophisticated novel.
The first chapter slips into the narrative sideways, beginning, ‘Later, after Hanna made some cheese on toast…’. Hanna is the youngest Madigan, twelve years old in 1980. It is from her restricted perspective that we witness an important event in the family’s history, eldest son Dan’s decision to become a