The Forgotten Waltz
by Anne Enright
W.W. Norton and Company
You’ve got to love someone who describes herself and her sister on the day of her mother’s funeral like this:
“We are, neither of us, the crying type. We are the sunglasses type. We are the kind of woman who walks out of a funeral service talking about their foundation.
‘Is there a line?’ I said to Fiona, indicating the underside of my chin. Said it, and meant it. And Fiona, who understood completely, said, ‘Tiny bit. Just there. You’re fine.’
So my make-up was, at least, properly blended, as they loaded my mother’s coffin into the hearse and Sean paid his respects in the May sunshine.” (pg. 152)
That’s Gina Moynihan, the perfectly self-assured, supremely compelling, assuredly confident – and somewhat unreliable first-person narrator of Anne Enright’s beautifully written The Forgotten Waltz. She’s that girlfriend (a “girl about town,” according to the book jacket) that you meet for a glass of wine, sits you down, and immediately beguiles you with the story of her affair (at least the details she remembers or wants to remember) with Sean Vallely.
She starts like this, with the Preface:
“If it hadn’t been for the child then none of this might have happened, but the fact that a child was involved made everything that much harder to forgive. Not that there is anything to forgive, of course, but the fact that a child was mixed up in it all made us feel that there was no going back; that it mattered. The fact that a child was affected meant we had to face ourselves properly, we had to follow through.” (pg. 5)
Yeah, you know you’re going to be closing the bar down, listening to that story.
The Forgotten Waltz takes place on a snowy day in a suburb of Dublin while Gina is waiting for Sean’s teenage daughter Evie (the child mentioned in the preface above) to arrive. It’s 2009, but the story actually takes place several years prior as Gina recollects the events that led up to her meeting – and falling in love with, and having an affair with – Sean.
This story has been told before – married woman falls for married guy with a kid; she gets him a job as a consultant with the company she works for, affording them many a clandestine afternoon in hotel beds together – but the way Anne Enright writes about the commitments and complications that fall by the wayside is simply wonderful. The Forgotten Waltz is more of a story about the characters than a plot-driven story. Even though the characters will make you both infuriated and delighted, this one is well worth the read. Beyond that, it’s kind of hard to describe, so I’ll let the book jacket do some of the talking for me:
“Here, again, is the sudden momentous drama of everyday life; the volatile connections between people; that fresh eye for each flinch and gesture; the wry, accurate take on families, marriage, brittle middle age.”
This one’s kind of irresistible – just like some people are, for better or worse.
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