“A story about the way life can circle from innocent to disturbed, back to innocent” : A Review of The Wren, The Wren 

By Mia Paton  

This is a story about life. The loneliness of it. The intricacies of the inner workings and thoughts of one’s mind: thoughts that we all think but don’t often think into conscious thought. The subconscious, relatable.  

The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright is a novel that follows two women: a mother and a daughter. The past and present jumps around between and within these two perspectives. The reader learns about Carmel’s lonely childhood, about giving birth to Nell and the baby feeling that loneliness as if it could see through time. The reader jumps to Nell as an adult, finding her way through life by making mistakes and leaving home to be homeless. Mother-daughter relationships are complicated, filled with love and irritation, and can oftentimes be put on hold when life happens.  

“the wren the wren 

was a panic 

of feathered air 

in my opening hand 

so fierce and light 

I did not feel 

the push 

of her ascent 

away from me” 

Carmel’s father was a poet – a rather famous one throughout Europe – and, rather poetically, this book is broken up by poems and excerpts of poems that continue the story in their own way. ‘The Wren, The Wren’ is the poem Carmel’s father dedicated to her, and the poem this book is named after. It is a poem of birth, the incredible, wondrous feeling of having a child, something that is your own. It is a poem of watching that very something of your own grow up into their own something, the unexpected ache when it finally ascends away from you. It is a poem about life and relationships and feeling, and perfectly encapsulates the novel it was written for.  

Nell was raised solely by her mother, and the reader follows her story in snippets that jump from thought to reality, from past to present. It’s almost like she’s recounting an event like one would with a friend and keeps on getting interrupted by her wandering thoughts and the goings-on around her. Her perspective is intricate; she focusses on the tiny details of life. For example, the reader sits with her for a while as she cooks an egg, remarking on the way she once got a double yolk which made it the best day ever.  

Life is lonely, but it can be busy, and people can get carried away with their own missions of the day. The Wren, The Wren covers the expansive themes of mothers and daughters and life and the mistakes of a human, but it also brings its readers back to simplicity, to the subtleties of every day. Like bird-sounds, like that double egg yolk. It moves to the emotion of a little boy getting a cochlear implant and hearing his mother’s love for the first time, or the way someone can seem like the love of your life, but instead they’re cleverly luring you into abuse. It moves back to the egg.  

“the wren 

poked out 

from the cup 

of my fist 

and was still” 

This is a story about the way life can circle from innocent to disturbed, back to innocent. It’s a learning curve for the characters, a reflection for the readers. 

Mia Paton (she/her) is a writer and editor currently studying a BFA in Creative Writing at QUT in Meanjin (Brisbane). She has short stories published in both ScratchThat Magazine and Dawn Street Zine. Mia typically writes a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy, and is in the process of finalising her first manuscript. 

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