Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on The Forgotten Waltz.
Although I loved this compelling novel, Enright’s protagonist, Gina Moynihan, is one of the most self-serving people I’ve read about in recent times. Gina marches though life valuing only what she can get out of other people, desiring excess
and harboring grandiose delusions that revolve around her unfulfilled romantic life.
Set in Ireland just before the financial crash that left the country economically devastated, Enright introduces us to Gina’s family and her co-workers
- all upwardly mobile and determined to build their lives on wealth, position and image as they attend corporate conferences in Switzerland, working like crazy and partying when they can.
Conor Shiels is Gina‘s boyfriend, a burly, Web-obsessed geek who is supposedly Gina’s idea of fun, “so fantastically male” with his slabs of muscle covered in slabs of solid fat. As Enright cleverly reveals Gina’s courtship and eventual rushed marriage to Conor, she exposes the wrong-headed allure of her heroine's passion. Gifted and pushed by a swell of the sea, Gina meets Sean Vallely in a front garden in Enniskerry on the day of her sister’s housewarming party.
It’s 2002; Gina and Conor are just back from a holiday in Australia after spending a week with Conor’s sister in Sydney, the trip their last fling before money is salted away for deposits, mortgage insurance, and life's daily hardships. The afternoon is warm,
and Gina has had a lot of Chardonnay. Sean stands at the bottom of the garden, “just a little rip in the fabric of her life.”
Sean is older and urbane and married. Gina’s first view of him takes place as she lights her Marlboro, his body and view making her hazy, as though she’s “catching a strangers eye.” It isn’t until 2005, at a conference in Montreux, that they sleep together when Sean appears again more handsome, with a tan and longer, curly hair. Amid flow charts, fondue and beer, Gina surprises herself
with how quickly she leaves his hotel room, guilty and a little mad.
All is not easy for Gina and Sean as Enright pushes further into their affair, the silence “making it all filthier.” There’s the panic of credit card bills, of hurriedly sent text messages. Sean is wild and intelligent, but he’s also distant and depressed. There are behavioral problems with his daughter, Evie, and her detached mother, Aileen, seeks to keep up the appearance of a happy marriage. Throughout it all, Gina discovers how sexy it is to be clandestine as she becomes evermore besotted with Sean in “disturbing traces of lust.”
In devastating prose, Enright captures Gina’s interior voice as she steers her neurotic protagonist into Emma Bovary territory, albeit with a far more sophisticated agenda. A flawed heroine who trusts her instincts to her peril, Enright has us rooting for Gina regardless of her efforts to sort through the mess she’s making, her whole romantic life playing surprisingly close to farce.