The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

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The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: Set in modern day Dublin, Gina recalls the events that led to an affair that wrecks two marriages. Add to the mix that one involves a troubled young daughter who suffers from epilepsy. Well observed and told with a lightness of touch and plenty of wry humour.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: April 2011
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0224089036

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Longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012

Anne Enright's 2007 Booker prize winning The Gathering addressed the gloomy subjects of the three D's; death, depression and dysfunctional families. Her latest book, The Forgotten Waltz, set in Dublin in 2009, sees her turning her attentions to a love affair. A more uplifting subject you might think. Well only up to a point. The affair in question you see is that of her narrator, Gina, who is already married to the generally good, if undynamic, Connor, while on the other end, the subject of the affair is the older, Seán, also married and neighbour of Gina's sister. In case your moral compass isn't stretched quite enough by this, Seán and his wife Aileen, also have a young daughter who suffers from epilepsy.

What Enright does so well is identify the little gestures. The story is told by Gina as a recollection of what happened and the narrator acknowledges that this memory is not always infallible. There's a very self-aware sense to Gina's voice and there's also plenty of wry humour about family and about what we might call the middle age crisis. Gina, we sense, knows she's in the wrong in both thought and deed, but her justification of her actions are endearing and it's hard not to sympathise with her, not least as we only get her view of things. But while Gina has her flaws, she acknowledges at least most of them and recognizes when she's being unfair or unreasonable, which makes it a more enjoyable read.

Another nice touch is that each relatively short chapter has a 'love song' title, ranging from Paper Roses and In These Shoes? to Money (That's What I Want). Fittingly the final chapter is entitled The Things We Do for Love.

Enright has a clear writing style and the book gallops along at a brisk pace. Although hints of the outcome are apparent from the start, you still want to find out how the relationship between Gina and Seán develops. Will they get caught? If so, what will be the reaction of friends, family and work colleagues? It's not a long book and for at least two thirds of the book, this is the main focus of events. Seán's daughter, Evie, who ages from about four to twelve during the story, is largely a side issue.

Illness and death again feature in this book. At the start it is clear that Gina's mother is unwell, and her father died when Gina was a teenager. Once the relationship between Gina and Seán reaches a certain point (he said trying not to give anything away!) the pace of the narration slows down and specifically there is a chapter devoted largely to Gina's recollection of her father. Then in the final part, Evie starts to play more of a role as Gina tries to explain Seán's character and actions. Although I liked the ending very much, the final third of the book seemed to change tack slightly too much for me. I was, by then, caught up in the relationship developing but once it reached its destination, the story too seemed to lose its punch.

The characters are all nicely sketched rather than being deeply explored, but all are recognizable and have a realistic mix of flaws and strengths. Ultimately, no matter who each sees as the villains of the piece, all are victims in these situations. It's an enjoyable read. Then again, maybe I just like gossip!

Our thanks to the kind folk at Jonathan Cape for inviting The Bookbag to dance The Forgotten Waltz.

For more from Anne Enright, check out her Booker-winning The Gathering, while if you hanker for more twisted affairs of the heart (and who doesn't?), then check out the interesting Spring by David Szalay.

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