“It could have been anyone, you know?” – The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

October 30, 2011 at 3:44 pm 4 comments

“The Forgotten Waltz” by Ann Enright, Published 2011


book cover

There is no question that Anne Enright can write beautifully. There are a lot of reasons to read “The Forgotten Waltz”  – the story is compelling and written with Enright’s unquestionable skill but I do feel like the technique loses the story a bit.

Gina narrators this story that is entirely focused on her affair with Sean. Gina is in her early thirties and has a fumbling and kind husband, a beautiful sister and a tragically fading mother. Sean has a cold-removed wife, Aileen, and a daughter, Evie.  Of course for most of this story the other characters are just peripheral to the affair.   The story is told in pieces, that rewind, criss-cross and then move forward to jump back again.  What becomes clear is that Gina is not a trustworthy narrator making her in fact the perfect way to look at what an affair does.  An affair is by it’s very nature unfairly all-consuming. And so, Gina’s affair with Sean is so selfish that it almost seems like her husband, Conor, and anyone else her affair touches is merely a supporting actor.  There is also little responsibility here – as if the affair just happened to her.

  “This is the really way it happens isn’t it? I mean in the real world there is no one moment when a relationship changes, no clear cause and effect. Or the effect might be clear, the cause is harder to trace.” 

Gina’s unraveling life seems to have little lasting emotional effect on her, which struck me as odd or maybe it was there and I missed the under-current.  The guilt that is there seems short-lived and shallow at best. Even in her interactions with Sean’s daughter Evie, who has struggled with a health issue since she fell off a swing when she was four,  Gina seems more interested in how Evie affects Gina’s relationship with Sean. Rather than how the affair has severely and forever altered this little girl’s life.  Here, I do believe Enright does a beautiful job of making a point by beginning and ending the book with Gina in an uncomfortable and truthful interaction with Evie.  It is a lovely wink at the reader that seems to say “Evie will always be the reality check here.”

I will admit for me the fact that there is no linear storyline made this novel hard to follow at times. It is supposed to be written the way that Gina’s memory works and of course memory is not a start-to-finish kind of thing.  But at times, I got a little left behind making the reading a little more difficult then this story should require.  Regardless of my lazy reading, Enright has found a stunning way  to deal with this topic and her writing is amazing.

(P.S.  Enright’s The Gathering is also a very good book)

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Entry filed under: October 2011 reads. Tags: , , , .

Me and Hemingway go way back – “A Moveable Feast” Snow means blankets, fireplaces, coffee, oh and books…lots of books

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tracey  |  November 1, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this book and you are right about Gina’s self centred approach to it all and her lack of real concern about Evie for Evies sake – I think Anne Enright writes beautifully as well even though overall this book didn’t quite work for me – and good to hear The Gathering is good too.

    Reply
    • 2. Emily C  |  November 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm

      If you read “The Gathering” you will have to let me know what you think. The writing is beautiful and the story is compelling but I will admit I still didn’t connect to it as much as I thought I would. But I liked it better than “The Forgotten Waltz.” Thank you for your comment and for reading my post.

      Reply
  • 3. Rachel Mary Reviews...  |  November 4, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I felt the same way about ‘The Gathering’, which was beautifully written enough to be compelling even when the back-and-forth narrative got a bit jilting. I’m tempted to try this one for the style alone.

    Reply
    • 4. Emily C  |  November 4, 2011 at 5:56 pm

      Maybe her next book, whatever that ends up being, will finally be the one that works. She does write so beautifully, I hope she keeps trying.
      Thank you for the comment and have a good weekend.

      Reply

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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