Most of the novel is set in Dublin, Ireland. There are a few trips taken to England, but they are very brief. The flavor of the story is definitely Irish, and some critics have charged that some of this flavor is too stereotypical. Some of the typical Irish markers, as reviewers have pointed out, are the Catholic faith, the large family, drinking, and the dysfunctional families that many Irish writers have chosen as subject matter before Enright.
Other than that, throughout most of the story, readers are inside the narrator’s mind as she tries to piece together her emotions for her brother Liam. In many ways, the outer setting does not affect the story. It could take place almost anywhere.
The novel takes place in 1998, but there are scenes in the narrator’s parents’ house, going back in time to the fifties, sixties, and seventies. When discussing her grandmother Ada, the narrator fleshes out scenes that take place (at least in the narrator’s mind) in the 1920s. When Veronica and Liam go to live with their grandmother, the setting is in the late 1960s.
Most of the action of the novel takes place inside enclosed rooms. As children, the main characters spend a lot of time inside Ada’s house. The funeral and the gathering take place in Veronica’s mother’s home, where she and her siblings grew up.
Other settings include the home Veronica shares with her husband, but she is there only for short periods of time. Veronica also spends a lot of her time in her car, traveling around at night when she cannot sleep.