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The Wren, The Wren: The Booker Prize-winning author

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The Wren, The Wren: The Booker Prize-winning author by Anne Enright

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By Anne Enright

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LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2024

Carmel had been alone all her life. The baby knew this. They looked at each other, and all of time was there. The baby knew how vast her mother’s loneliness had been.

‘A magnificent novel’ SALLY ROONEY

Nell is a young woman with adventure on her mind. As she sets out into the world, she finds her family history hard to escape. For her mother, Carmel, Nell’s leaving home opens a space in her heart, where the turmoil of a lifetime begins to churn. Over them both falls the long shadow of Carmel’s famous father, an Irish poet of beautiful words and brutal actions.

From our greatest chronicler of family life, The Wren, The Wren is a story of the love that can unite us, and the individual acts that threaten this vital bond.

‘A triumph…treasure it’ SUNDAY TIMES

‘One of the great living writers on the subject of family’ NEW YORK TIMES

‘A must-read’ MARGARET ATWOOD (on Twitter)

‘Might just be Anne Enright’s best yet’ LOUISE KENNEDY

  • A SUNDAY TIMES, OBSERVER, GUARDIAN, TLS, HARPER’S BAZAAR, NEW STATESMAN, THE NEW YORKER, TIME AND WASHINGTON POST BOOK OF THE YEAR *

Reviews

02 Jun 2024

Annesbooks

When I first started this book I wasn't initially that impressed but it quickly grew on me. I became immersed in the world of Nell and Carmel and the impact Phil, who had abandoned them, had on all their lives. I could easily visualise all the characters as they had been so well drawn by the writer. I found the relationship portrayed between Nell and Carmel very real and relatable. I liked the way the book chapters alternated between Nell and Carmel. I appreciate why the writer wanted to include so much poetry and while some hit a genuine chord with me, some of it went 'over my head'. When I finished this book I immediately wanted to reread it as I feel I will enjoy and appreciate it even more second time round.

27 May 2024

FJ000

I read this book with high hopes, I usually love Irish writers (and Anne Enright is a very skilled word smith, such lovely phrasing and what could have been gripping changes in voice and pace) but i found it an effort to continue past the second episode with Nell. A young woman who appears to have become cut off from her self and her mother. But this was not an incisive exploration of the mother daughter relationship, it was a disjointed, meaningless drift around lots of bad sex. So I kept going hoping to gain an understanding of why Nell wanted to be abused (which is a horrible precept) but was pointed only to the blame on her mother for loving her too much, or the very strained idea that her feckless grandfather was in her veins. The drawing of Phil was very clever, perhaps a bit too sharp on castigating the pathetically uninsightful but brilliantly self important male Irish writer; but why the horror of the fox baiting - was that the crux of his damage? And then everything came good for Nell just like that at the end. An unsatisfying read.

24 May 2024

NAS

This novel has been described as “a meditation on love: spiritual, romantic, darkly sexual or genetic. A multigenerational novel that traces the inheritance not just of trauma but also of wonder, it is a testament to the glorious resilience of women in the face of promises false and true. Above all, it is an exploration of the love between mother and daughter - sometimes fierce, often painful, but always transcendent."

For me the book did not live up to this description, it promised so much but delivered so little. It left me feeling let down by a story that never fully developed or led me to any real understanding of the characters. I’m still not sure what it was trying to say.

I found the initial introduction to the central character of Nell confusing, irritating and fragmented. Perhaps that is what the writer wished to portray within Nell’s personality and if so she was successful. At no time within the book did I feel any investment in Nell's story. Early in the novel Nell becomes embroiled in an abusive relationship. I couldn’t understand what in her life would have caused her to be so submissive and accepting of this. She appeared to have had a pretty stable and loving upbringing. I therefore found this storyline hard to connect with.

Carmel (Nell’s mother) came across more positively. There was additional depth to her story and life and as such I found her more engaging.

For me the chapter on Phil (Carmel’s father) was gratuitous and disturbing. It added little to my understanding of him as a man. The author seemed to want to shock rather than explain.

I found this to be a book of fragmented abstracted writing which did not connect to create a cohesive story.

I felt there were too many superficial, bit part characters with no depth to their stories. I would have preferred the author to have spent more time developing a deeper understanding and connection to the main protagonists for the reader.

The author is evidentially an accomplished skilled writer who perhaps in her attempt to demonstrate this to the full forgot about the reader and the story.

23 May 2024

JacqsH

I didn’t enjoy this book. It seemed like a conglomeration of random thoughts in a diary which were gathered together to create a harrowing portrayal of victimised women with a token male stereotype thrown in. This was a book group choice and as such I felt I should persevere but just couldn’t read to the end.

23 May 2024

AHB

I struggled to read this book.
My viewpoint of the first character is that she is suffering from some malaise - perhaps BiPolar disorder.
Even though I was given the book for a book group read - I was unable to complete it. It was the hardest book to start in recent history - and I am a fan of wide ranging tropes and styles, however this was beyond my ability to engage with and very difficult to get into. Skipping through to each of the poems showed a good writing style but the storyline was lacking.

23 May 2024

Kags

I was so disappointed in this book. At the end I questioned ‘what was the point of the book?’
This was a book group choice and I only persevered to finish it because of this.
I found Nell very challenging and the one chapter on Phil irrelevant and disturbing.
However I did find the style and pace of writing accomplished it was the story I felt was weak.

23 May 2024

CHD

Depressing and disappointing.
I struggled through Nell, her damaged, weak character left me cold.
I was baffled and struggled to see were this was going.
I would have given up after Nell only for the pressure I felt to finish it for book group.
Carmel was easier to read but I still couldn't find the point.
Try as I may, when Nell made her reappearance, I could only get half way through the book. I didn't want, nor indeed need, this in my life.

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