There are more than a few echoes in Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz, a chilly and scalpel-sharp remembrance of an extramarital affair and its aftershocks. Enright’s icy prose has been called Didion-esque, and there’s a similarly unflinching quality to her heroine’s self-assessment as in Jardine Libaire’s Here Kitty Kitty. But The Forgotten Waltz is defiantly, resolutely its own story.Both married when they meet, Gina and Seán fall into an affair almost without wanting to. He’s not the dashing, dimpled man out of a chick lit novel; he’s older, slightly paunchy and distant—and not in a Mr. Darcy sort of way. As she recounts what led to the dissolution of their marriages, Gina finds herself wavering in her memories of her husband, a good-hearted lug whom she almost delights in deceiving, along with her sister, who just happens to be Seán’s neighbor.
There are no sudden outbursts of temper or melodramatic scenes in Enright’s novel; Gina and the men and women in her life might as well be English instead of Irish for all their stiff-upper-lip-ness. What Enright gives readers instead is a leisurely memory novel, almost impressionist in the ways the details of Gina’s life substitute for the larger repercussions of her actions.
There’s nothing sexy about her affair with Seán; it’s one of the dingiest affairs to end in a relationship that readers are likely to encounter. But Gina is far from a self-destructive, impulsive creature of libido. She’s casual, certainly, but there’s an obsessive quality to her memories that hint at the forgiveness she has yet to grant herself or Seán. And it’s in the scenes with Seán’s daughter, a possible epileptic, that Enright is at her most powerful. Gina and Evie share the dynamic one would assume, given the nature of their relationship, but Evie’s unreadable demeanor and actions prevent Gina—who has proven herself almost surgical in her ability to read into others’ motivations—from ever finding her bearings around her. Don’t be fooled by Enright’s title—this book is anything but forgettable.
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