You & I. The stories we tell ourselves: turning trauma into narrative in Anne Enright’s The Gathering, Niall Williams’ History of the Rain, and John Banville’s The Sea
Vincent, Florence Rose Anne
Novel: You & I You & I is a coming-of-age tale tied up in the themes of trauma, memory and storytelling. It follows sixteen-year-old Esther, who is sent to live on the fictional Cornish island of Little Wimbish following the disappearance of her bipolar mother. Once on the island where her mother grew up, the damaged and reclusive Esther finds herself caught up in the lives, history and folklore of the Wimbish community – not to mention the mystery of her father’s identity. As the story progresses and Esther becomes more invested in the fairy tale escapes promised by the island she now calls home, the voice switches back and forth between the second and first person – and we begin to suspect that our narrator may have inherited her mother’s illness. This is a novel concerned with how we tell stories – about ourselves, our histories, and the places we live – and why. Essay: The Stories We Tell Ourselves: Turning Trauma into Narrative in Anne Enright’s The Gathering, Niall Williams’ History of the Rain, and John Banville’s The Sea How do we recover from trauma, and what role can storytelling play in the recovery process? This essay investigates the notion that in Anne Enright’s The Gathering, Niall Williams’ History of the Rain and John Banville’s The Sea, each narrator carries out an attempt at recovery, enacted through a written recollection of their past traumas. Taking inspiration from various trauma theorists and psychologists, along with writer and trauma survivor Edward St Aubyn, this essay lays out the necessary steps which must be taken in order to integrate trauma into one’s life story. By writing down their trauma, constructing a narrative which allows for a certain amount of invention, facing up to the dirtier and more difficult aspects of their experiences, and finally, sharing the finished narrative with another person, the trauma survivor may facilitate the beginnings of a recovery.