Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright


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.

Favorite passages:
"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.

My rating:

23 comments:

  1. "It amazes me how a book with very little plot can be so immediately absorbing" I agree. Anne Enright is one of the few authors in the world able to captivate me without any plot. I'm so pleased that you enjoyed this one as much as I did.

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  2. I totally agree. Her writing is gorgeous. Even when I didn't really agree with (or like) the characters, the writing pulled me through.

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  3. Glad you find it worth reading. I'm in line for a library hold of this book. And, after just finishing Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, I'm interested to see how Enright handles the subject. Thanks for your review!

    Arti

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  4. That passage, well the tone of it really reminds me of The Glass Room by Simon Mawer, which is also about an affair.

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  5. Sometimes I really love character driven books like this, where not much actually happens. Thanks for the recommendation :)

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  6. I love writing like this! For some reason I enjoy stories where there is much of a plot. This sounds fascinating and I'm sure the author could write it two more times from the other POVs and you would love each story. I'm marking this one to read!

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  7. I like the passages you shared with us. I see why you were so caught up in it. Beautiful writing indeed.

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  8. I've been itching to read this. My mother offered to buy a copy for me, but she couldn't find it in the bookstore. Someday, it will be mine.

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  9. Oh, I do like what you had to say about this one. I own this and her earlier book, but still haven't read them.

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  10. Some of my absolutely favorite books have been those where the plot is essentially non-existant. I've been interested in reading Enright but haven't gotten to her. I know I have one of her books on my shelf but don't remember which it is.

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  11. These passages you included show that beautiful writing of Enright's. I love that you meant to read just a couple of pages and read 50. I love absorbing books like this!
    I have Enright's first book which I haven't read but I am going to list this on my wishlist.

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  12. Jackie - I really did! Now I must find a copy of The Gathering.

    Julie - Other than a short story or two, this is the first Enright novel I've read. It won't be the last.

    Arti - I hope you don't have to wait much longer. After your review, I'll be rereading The End of the Affair before too long.

    Ti - Adding The Glass Room to my wish list now (just read your review).

    Sam - I find than I'm enjoying character driven novels more all the time. My favorite is still Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner.

    Staci - I love this style of writing, too! I'll be searching out Enright's earlier novels.

    Margot - I guess I've become a pushover for writing like this... so beautiful!

    Robby - I hope you don't have to wait too long. This is a wonderful book!

    Diane - This is the first Enright novel I've read, but I'm going to see if I can get a copy of The Gathering.

    Trish - Mine, too! Enright's writing was all I needed here. I want to read The Gathering next, but I understand it's much darker.

    Amy - If I can read 50 pages without even realizing it, you know it's a good book! Hoping to read The Gathering before too long.

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  13. I've never read Enright, but you're right, her writing is beautiful! Even those short passages were enthralling.

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  14. I really liked The Gathering by Enright and will plan to read this one too. Her writing is really beautiful and I loved the slow, contemplative nature of her writing that I grew to love after reading The Gathering.

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  15. Softdrink - The writing here is definitely gorgeous! I've read a few of her short stores and they're very good, too.

    Kathleen - I just got a copy of The Gathering from the library. Sounds like it might be a little darker. Not sure whether I'll read it now or not...

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  16. I love the cover. And those passages are striking.

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    1. I've just become Enright's newest fan!

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  17. I read a collection of the author's short stories and loved the writing so I am looking forward to this novel. I heard the author speak last year about the novel and it was very interesting to hear about what motivated her to write this story and what SHE thought of Gina.

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    1. Booksnyc - Your review is the one that got me to add Enright's stories to my wish list! I read one online, but have yet to purchase the collection - just love her writing. It must have been SO interesting to hear her talk about this book.

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  18. I loved the passages you included, but I don't think I want to read a book about adultry. Seems too depressing for me.

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    1. Stacybuckeye - While this wasn't the cheeriest book in the world, it wasn't really as depressing as it might have been (or as depressing as I was expecting). I was really focused on the beautiful writing.

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  19. So glad to see that you enjoyed this so well. I have it in my stacks and need to move it closer to my nightstand.

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    1. Les - This book is worth reading for the writing alone! I really need to make time for The Gathering soon...

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