Exquisitely crafted ... Often very funny ... This is a powerful, thoughtful book by one of the great living writers on the subject of family, about how very long it takes to make peace with cruelty and loneliness, about being a woman living in the shadow of a man who wrestles with Ovid, doing the nonpoetic work of raising children and defrosting the freezer. Speaking about love in terms both domestic and transcendent, Enright coos through newly connected wires.
Wondrous ... Enright...is a master at dissecting family life ... If the internet is supposed to have caused a general dumbing-down, Enright shows how, on the contrary, in the hands of a truly inquisitive and deeply intelligent and creative mind like Nell’s, it can be a window into ourselves ... The novel is interspersed with translations of old Irish poetry — each poem is in direct counterpoint to or an accent on her themes. Far from feeling ancient, these poems have a language of their own that transcends time. Like the novel itself, they sing with grace and beauty and hard-hitting truth.
A tough, mordant story ... The power of Enright's novel derives not so much from the age-old tale of men behaving badly, but from the beauty and depth of her own style. She's so deft at rendering arresting insights into personality types or situations ... Enright makes it clear that such stories are never small when they happen to you.
So convincingly has Ms. Enright conjured the archetype of the wandering Irish bard who leaves behind him a legacy of abandoned women and melodious, honey-tongued verse ... Is it possible for poems to be fictitious? In fact, these nostalgic odes to love and Ireland are limpid, lilting, wholly credible stand-alone works ... One of Ms. Enright’s remarkable feats is to write believably across three generations, capturing epochal differences but also a buried, or even repressed, continuity. The fullness of Ms. Enright’s talent is reflected as well in her treatment of what has come to be known, a bit glibly, as the 'art monster.'
As Nell’s and Carmel’s stories weave around each other, it’s easy to lose track of which woman’s tale is centered at any given moment ... It’s been a pleasure getting to know Anne Enright in one great wash of words. Her voice is captivating.
Spellbinding ... A supple scrutiny of familial relationships ... The book’s boldness is that it is itself richly seasoned with translations ... Enright’s brilliance is that she doesn’t just write about all this – she allows us to experience it. The book contains the empty spaces of discontinuities of perspective and style ... It is with these superb skills that Enright answers the question that her book poses. She holds us as readers at a careful distance. But only so that we can feel how language, when it is sufficiently well arrayed, can cross the spaces between the page and the heart and, as Enright’s always does, hit home.
What emerges is a study of how some psychological properties – attitudes, talents, neuroses – are passed between generations, while others, no less surprisingly, aren’t. Nell is a somewhat less compelling creation than her mother ... Enright is a magnificent stylist.
The startling beauty of the novel...lies in the breezy way it moves in and out of its different textures – now sixth-century poetry, now the fractured one-word thoughts of a modern woman ... The whole narrative is a complex song of sorrow for the grandfather who abandoned the mother and hence the granddaughter, leaving them to search far and wide for the translation that will deliver love.
Deceptively modest ... With this extended portrait of a much younger woman, Enright quietly establishes her excellence ... Enright demonstrates a rare fluency in the language of youth ... Enright is wonderfully funny and nuanced about the way the two women engage with technology ... She expertly arranges echoes and juxtapositions to achieve both psychological depth and formal beauty.
Unfolds in the present while looping back to the past, offers...prolonged pleasure ... It is a testament to Enright’s capacious empathy that the characters emerge fully fledged ... Also sympathetic to the precarity faced by Gen Z ... Wry.
What do you want from a book — simple pleasures or something to chew on? With Anne Enright’s new novel, you can have both ... Satisfying ... Her approach — shards of brilliance flashing in every direction — means that we don’t get a plotlike flow, but if you believe a book is a conversation between reader and writer, where you get out what you put in, then that’s a feature, not a bug. The complexity of Enright’s writing extends to her refusal to reduce characters to categories.
This is a beautiful, mature novel, which includes the familiar Enright touchstones: her wonderfully wicked sense of humour and her unflinching focus on the female body. But Enright is not a complacent writer. She is just as capable of bringing the Gen Z, social media manager Nell to life as she is entering the world of Carmel, a woman of her own generation ... This is Enright’s best novel since The Gathering, and its absence from this year’s Booker longlist is nothing less than a miscarriage of literary justice. Readers must find it and treasure it regardless.
Enright’s plots are deceptively straightforward, but the stories within them are potent in their complexity, often juxtaposing strikingly different narratives, as in her new book, the restless and deeply gratifying The Wren, The Wren ... Enright’s interpretation of the disaffection and voyeurism around which so much contemporary fiction (much of it by young women) is based seems especially resonant when conveyed by someone not of that generation.
Intricate ... But there is a lightness here too, thanks to Nell’s wit and lively observations ... Not a perfect novel. Some of its consecutive scenes are unsettlingly disparate. That there is just one, short chapter written from Phil’s perspective – while the rest of the book flits evenly between Carmel and Nell – feels odd. Yet it is a rich and perceptive examination of uneven family relationships – and of what happens when, as Phil does in drawing inspiration from his own love affairs, we choose to make art from real life.
Enright’s luminous examination of the fallout from parental rejection and the emotional toll it exacts over time evokes the profound sense of confusion, mistrust, and denial those involved experience. While Carmel and Nell have different reactions to the often surreal McDaragh family trauma, both are indelibly scarred by this seminal act of betrayal. Enriched by searing if beautiful poetry, Enright’s beseeching novel thrums with desire, heartache, and connection.
Whip-smart ... Enright imbues a sense of great importance to domestic incidents, such as in a flashback to Nell as a child, when Carmel strikes her after she acts out by breaking a light fixture, but the tone is far from despondent; the prose fizzes with wit and bite. Enright’s discomfiting and glimmering narrative leans toward a poetic sense of hope.