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Brilliant indictment.

ANNE ENRIGHT

THE FORGOTTEN WALTZ

W. W. NORTON, 2011

IF The Gathering was your kind of fiction, you 11 be off in your undisturbed comer with this one, too. You'll probably want to read it twice, the first time to map the tale; the second time to savor the prose. Gina, tongue-ing the taste of ashes, and Fiona, her beautiful, competitive sister, could be another two of Ada Merriman' s progeny, whom Anne Enright shrewdly realized she could reserve for another big hit. These characters emerge from the same stock of suburban smart-phoning, heavy drinking, carelessly shagging, mostly unhappy thirty-to-fifty-year-olds. Is there a causal connection between the boom and bust economy and these lives that become "a desolation of boredom, rage and all the rest of it" (19)? And does the mirror of Caliban, held up to after-work corporate culture, explain the great popularity of these novels?

The Forgotten Waltz is, like The Gathering, a brilliantly written indictment. The eight-year internal calendar within the new century's first decade is detailed. The narrator is boldly unreliable. Gina Moynihan tells us her story of unredeemed mistakes motivated by recklessly indulged desire. The usual triangle in the featured affair bears the special complication of a mildly epileptic, coddled child. Gina's relationship to Sean thickens more by the stew of jealousy and guilt permeating obligations to his child, Evie, than by the love and hurt of relationships with her family and spouse.

Gina is intelligent and insightful:
 We knew each other. Our real life was
 shared in some head space ... Maybe
 that's the way lovers should be--not
 these besotted, fuck-witted strangers ...
 actors in a bare room. (19).


Though early in their relationship she becomes aware of Sean's jealousy of her and his inclination to diminish her achievements, she can't act on the realization. Yet she fails to find her way out of the mess she has created. Her account is plausibly contradictory and disgruntled; we're well-warned from the start:
 I loved Conor then ... before our lives became
 a desolation of boredom, rage, and
 betrayal, I loved Sean. I mean, Conor. (19).


When news of Gina's affair breaks on her family:
 The next few days were full of shouting.
 Much cliche It seemed that everything
 was said. I mean everything, by everybody ....

 You never.
 I always.
 The thing about you is. (160)


Gina attempts to vindicate herself, lets the reader know how she controlled herself in argument with Fiona, who has, herself, had at least a gra for Sean, but Gina can't resist imparting a crude denigration of her brother-in-law to us in Fiona's stead. She admits to childishness but doesn't abandon the blame game:
 We were in the living room of the house
 in Terenure. It was easy to shout there. It
 was like being twelve again.... Of
 course you are not twelve. And you regret
 everything. Every word you uttered. The
 fact that human beings learned the art of
 speech--you regret that too. (160-161)


Such regret doesn't significantly alter behavior or generate phenomena like penitence and forgiveness.

Enright makes the narrative plausible and persuasive in its technical aspects: vocabulary (even having Gina the professional language translator bamboozled by nominative and reflexive pronouns), rhythm, ellipsis, imagery--and in its emotions: fury, sarcasm, humor, irony, regret, and irrational, immature tantrums. Gina can also move us with her poetic reverie: "When I think of those hotel rooms, I think of them after we left.... the door closed so simply behind us; the shape of our love in the room like some forgotten music, beautiful and gone" (112-113). Enright creates haunting representations of Gina's humiliation, of being the "Not wife," of her sudden flashes of childhood, of parents' problems (vanity, favoritism, alcoholism, dementia), of the plight of job loss and the collapse of house values. Ultimately, however, Enright has done her job so well it's hard to care very much when we finally close the book on Gina, her lover Sean Vallely, his wife Aileen, daughter Evie, Gina's husand Conor, sister Fiona---on all the self-obsessed people Enright has exposed here. There's no later pleasure in calling them up as imaginary company.

--Pacific Lutheran University
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Title Annotation:The Forgotten Waltz
Author:Eyler, Audrey Stockin
Publication:Irish Literary Supplement
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2012
Words:686
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