The Green Road
Spanning thirty years, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigans, a family on the cusp of either coming together or falling irreparably apart. As they grow up, Rosaleen’s four children leave the west of Ireland for lives they could have never imagined in Dublin, New York, and Mali, West Africa. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.
A profoundly moving work about a family’s desperate attempt to recover the relationships they’ve lost and forge the ones they never had.
Comments from the judges
“There was something wrong with the house and Rosaleen did not know what it was.” Anne Enright’s The Green Road is, at its core, a continuation of the author’s exploration of the idea of home in an age of homelessness. The novel’s epicentre is the archetype of home in the Irish imagination, the small country cottage in County Clare, in the West of Ireland, in which the novel’s elderly central character, Rosaleen, lives. Her family are spread around the globe; one son, Dan, lives initially in New York at the peak of the AIDS epidemic, and later moves to Toronto; another son, Emmet, is an aid worker in Mali; her two daughters, Constance and Hanna, have remained in Ireland.
In the novel’s opening sections, the lives of Rosaleen’s children take shape in short, almost self-contained sections with their own orbits, before converging in the novel’s second half on the family home, which Rosaleen has decided to sell. Once gathered in Clare, they all realise – none more powerfully than Rosaleen herself – that the idea of home that is so important to all of them in their differing ways no longer exists. Indeed, it may never have existed. At one level, this is the kind of intimate, cold-eyed, exploration of the web of family that readers will recognise from the author of The Gathering. At the same time, appearing at a moment when Irish culture is experiencing an unprecedented sense of displacement, The Green Road accomplishes something that resonates much more widely: it forces us to ask, along with Rosaleen: “Where could you put yourself: if you could not feel at home in your own home?”
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
A masterly work, brilliant and true. A book about family behaviour and consequences.
It’s Christmas when the Madigan children return to visit their widowed mother before the family house is sold and familial strains are evident. The way Enright traces knowledge through generations is understated, yet mature, painting a family that is pitiless and considerate.
Recommended by staff and library users.