'The Forgotten Waltz': A boom-and-bust Irish love affair
Book review: In "The Forgotten Waltz," Dublin novelist Anne Enright tells the story of an affair and disintegrating marriages, with the Irish economic boom and bust as a backdrop. Enright will read Oct. 13 at the Seattle Public Library.
Special to The Seattle Times
Anne EnrightThe author of "The Forgotten Waltz" will read at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 in the Microsoft auditorium of the Seattle Public Library's downtown location; free (206-386-4636 or www.spl.org).
'The Forgotten Waltz'
by Anne Enright
Norton, 288 pp., $25.95
Anne Enright, 2007 Man Booker Prize winner for "The Gathering," has once again brought the reader into the heart of a story as old as time, made brand new by her fine hand.
Gina Moynihan recounts her adulterous affair with Seán Vallely while snow falls all around Ireland, reminiscent of another sad and lyrical Irish meditation, Joyce's "The Dead." Gina's recollections are not chronological; in her stream-of-consciousness telling, events pop up and recede as they occur to her.
Gina, married to Conor, is attending a party at her sister's home when she sees Seán for the first time. "He is, for the moment, completely himself. He is about to turn around ... He will look around and see me as I see him and, after this, nothing will happen for many years ... These things happen all the time. You catch a stranger's eye, for a moment too long, and then you look away."
Enright makes the mundane momentous with very few words. The immediacy with which she writes tells the reader to pay attention and look below the surface. Seán is married to the neurotic Aileen and father of Evie, who is four years old when he meets Gina. She is told that there is something about the child that is "not quite right."
Gina is part of the new Irish generation, enjoying the boom years, working in IT, child-free — just before it all comes tumbling down. She travels a lot and runs into Seán at a Conference in Montreaux, where the affair begins. "First a kiss, and then bed. Maybe it was the drink, but my sense of time was undone, as idly as a set of shoelaces, that you do not notice until you look down."
Seán is pleased to participate — he even tells Gina that she "saved my life." But Gina is besotted. She drives past his house like a teenager, doubles back and parks to watch the windows for a glimpse of him, meets him in hotel rooms, car parks, wherever and whenever. She believes that she will surely die without him. This over-the-top romanticism is echoed in the chapter headings — all sentimental favorite love songs.
As is usually the case in these matters, they are found out and recriminations ensue, marriages are ruined and then, there is the money: "Who would have thought love could be so expensive? ... The price of this house plus the price of that house, divided by two ... Thousands. Every time I touch him."
The poignant wild card in all of this is Evie. Diagnosed with childhood epilepsy, she seems to have outgrown it and is now trying to face everything these adults have foisted upon her. The last scene of the book is a stunner; one from which Gina will have a hard time recovering.
Anne Enright is uncannily deft at portraying lust and passion as they morph into resignation and the realization that one marriage may be much like another. "I thought it would be a different life, but sometimes it is like the same life in a dream ... " Addictive reading.
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