It amazes me how a book with very little plot can be so immediately absorbing. I sat down with Anne Enright's latest novel on a Friday afternoon, planning to read just a few pages. I wasn't sure it was what I wanted to read next, but, by the time I looked up, fifty pages had been turned and the decision had been made.
To say The Forgotten Waltz is about an affair is too simplistic. Adultery from the point of view of the other woman gets a little closer, but it's really more than that.
Gina, our first person narrator, is happily married to Conor when she meets Sean Vallely in her sister's garden. Enright's prose is slow and deliberate, but draws the reader in from the opening passage . Gina's voice provides a sense of immediacy and intimacy as she meanders through events from her childhood, marriage, and career. Her account of Sean's marriage, career, and daughter also figures prominently in her story of their affair.
As I closed the book (and I loved the ending), I considered the possibility that the story would be very different if told from Sean's perspective, or that of his wife, Aileen. Is Gina a reliable narrator? But in the end, I realized it didn't matter. I simply enjoyed reading Gina's story.
"The affair, as I had learned to call it, progressed in its Friday pace. The sex became less filthy and more fun, the silence filled with talk - laughter even - and this unsettled me. I might have preferred silence. Every normal thing he said reminded me that we were not normal. That we were only normal for the twelve foot by fourteen of a hotel room. Outside, in the open air, we would evaporate." p. 117
"I have thought about it a lot since - how much Aileen did or did not know. When it all blew up in our faces, sean said that she had been 'in denial'. He said 'you have no idea' (the things I have to put up with). They must realise, these women. They must, on some level, know what is going on. I know it sounds like a harsh thing to say, but I think we should own up to what we know. We should know why we do the things that we do. Otherwise it's just a mess. Otherwise we are all just flailing around." p. 108-109
"I thought it would be a different life, but sometimes it is the same life in a dream: a different man coming in the door, a different man hanging his coat on the hook. He comes home late, he goes out to the gym, he gets stuck on the internet: we don't spend our evenings in restaurants, or dine by candlelight anymore... I don't know what I expected... It's like they don't know you exist unless you are standing there in front of them. I think about Sean all the time when he is gone, about who he is, and where he is, and how I can make things right for him. I hold him in my care. All the time." p. 202
"I go through the darkening town with Sean's beautiful mistake. Because it really was a mistake for Sean to have a child, and it was a particular mistake for him to have this child; a girl who looks out on the world with his grey eyes, from a mind that is entirely her own. Lovers can be replaced, I think - a little bitterly - but not children. Whoever she turns out to be, he is forever stuck with loving Evie." p.258
Bottom line: The real beauty of The Forgotten Waltz lies in the writing.