When I spotted The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright at a book sale recently, it reminded me that I had been meaning to read more of her work. So, I bought the book and settled down to read just under 230 pages about a fictional affair.
The Forgotten Waltz is a curious novel. The story is told from the point of view of Gina Moynihan. Married to Conor, Gina works full time and is middle class. Apart from the spare facts, and that she has a sister, Fiona, and an elderly mother, Gina is a rather vague and shallow character. I wouldn’t say I didn’t like her, but I can’t say that I did. Her saving grace, perhaps, is that she doesn’t seem to like herself much either.
For a novel that is about an affair, the affair itself also seems shallow. Gina tries to convince herself otherwise but there’s somehow a lack of connection between her and her paramour Sean Vallely.
How were we supposed to stop?
Gina muses at one point, “once we had begun, how were we supposed to stop? This sounds like a simple question, but I still don’t know the answer to it. I mean we had started something that could not be ended, except by happening.”
Perhaps the shallowness is the point, since these are characters of Ireland’s economic boom. The trouble is that their vagueness leaves them struggling to get the reader rooting for them. What saves the day, is neither character nor plot, but the quality of Enright’s writing which, of itself, would encourage me to read her again.
Enright won the Man Booker Prize in 2007 for The Gathering and has since published The Forgotten Waltz (2011) and The Green Road (2015).