Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on The Forgotten Waltz.
Enright is one of those exceptional writers with an eye for detail so precise and intimate that it evokes the nascent memories that spring fully-fleshed from the past: a moment of recognition between lovers, the lines on a chubby child’s ankle from the elastic in her sock, the aching loneliness of a childhood home that echoes with the loss of its occupant. Through the voice of Gina Moynihan, all is rendered simple—the wrecking of two families, the beginnings of an affair, a flawed man who is hopelessly desirable, a husband grown stale in comparison.
The author accomplishes another feat—a considerable one—when she makes us complicit with her protagonist’s actions in choosing Sean Vallely over her own husband in their Dublin suburb, the gradual slide into infidelity meeting only slight resistance. Only Sean’s troubled daughter, a girl with “problems,” makes the transition difficult. Sean’s vigilant wife strung tight with the tension of her maternal failures, the child holds a soft spot in her father’s heart, firmly entrenched and irreplaceable. But little Evie’s fate hardly registers in those first heady days of hours stolen in motel rooms, the obsession of lovers denied easy access, the cracks in a marriage left unattended.
Gina hasn’t meant to hurt Connor, or Aileen, or Evie, or even her own scandalized family members once the truth is out: “I felt I had killed my life and no one was dead.” The guilt rests uneasily, especially regarding Evie: “The fact that a child was involved made everything that much harder to forgive.” Years pass in a tale of chronic infidelity begun with the first meeting and the secret hotel rendezvous, Sean a successful businessman, the market booming, money flowing- until it doesn’t anymore. But most memorable are the moments: Sean’s wife, Aileen, intuiting Gina as competition; the mad coupling after separation; Sean’s pale, vulnerable flesh when lost in sleep beside Gina.
Because this is Gina’s story, the reader experiences every detail from her perspective, every revelation, anxious moment and abandonment to whatever the future holds. And because it is Enright, all is cast in a softer glow, the landscape of the human heart impossible to control or confine in its errant progression. Besieged by memories of her own father, his mind eventually lost to dementia, Gina understands her position with Sean—that Evie is a continent unto herself, a failure Sean cannot bear to acknowledge.
The collateral damage is not insignificant, but Enright renders it bearable, part of the randomness of life and the choices demanded by love, her prose clear and brilliant, treachery rendered less cruel and more human as Gina forgoes the security of one life for the heady passions of another, unable to resist.