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The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright review: Perfect prose illuminates family chronicle

Enright's eighth novel paints a portrait of an unhappy family with ruthless precision

The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright book cover

The snub of all snubs for this year’s Booker Prize has to be to the great Anne Enright for The Wren, The Wren. Seriously, what more does Anne Enright have to do to be treated with some respect around here? The Wren, The Wren sees Enright back in more familiar territory after the exploration of fame in her last novel, Actress.

More in line with her novels The Green Road and The Gathering, The Wren, The Wren is a family chronicle. We have the daughter in university, Nell, who is attempting to distance herself from her overbearing mother, Carmel, while Carmel’s father, the legendary Irish poet Phil McDaragh, acts as the fountainhead for the family’s trickle-down trauma.

Enright’s prose is as perfect as ever here, from her unbelievably accurate ability to ventriloquise the trials and tribulations of a woman in her early 20s, social media jargon and all (Enright has famously never appeared on any social media site) to the poems of McDaragh that are a note-perfect pastiche of that type of Male Irish Poems that littered the 20th century, all those ponderings on gorse and swans. 

The Wren, The Wren is simply a flex of a novel, a master at work showing us exactly what she can do. It doesn’t need the Booker, but the Booker surely needs it.

Barry Pierce is a journalist and cultural commentator

The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright is out now (Vintage, £18.99. You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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