Book 44: The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

Perhaps I am too young, too inexperienced in the intricacies of marital relationships, to properly articulate my feelings about Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz. I have never been married (but will be in 8 months!), and I have never cheated (but have been cheated on, lied to, hurt)…then again, I am a woman who has (and is currently) loved, who was once in a serious relationship with a manipulative cheater. So take my review as lightly as you’d like, knowing that I’ve never been in the main character’s shoes (then again, I’ve never been to Hogwarts, either, but I have no problem reviewing the wizarding world). I think, when it comes to matters of the heart, be them fictional or factual, experience and wisdom are relative to the individual experiencing the love. Only the person(s) in the situation is qualified to criticize it. Regardless, I will review the novel for what it is: a novel.

The Forgotten Waltz is the story of Gina and Sean, a couple of cheaters. One’s spouse is an emotional and controlling mess, the other is just normal, simple, tv-reruns on Friday night kind of normal. Normal young couple versus a marriage marred by the stress of a sick child. Simplicity and sickness drive Gina and Sean together in an unforgiving relationship. He hurts her, he doesn’t apologize. She hurts her husband, she doesn’t apologize. There are very few redeeming qualities in these two characters. The story spans a few years of their back and forth, pushing and pulling, that ends in an even more mind-numbing simplicity and pain than the original relationships. This story just proves that affairs hurt everyone involved, and that no good comes from them.

Regardless of my dislike for the character(s), I thought the book was very well-written and incredibly descriptive. I actually felt the pain and thrill of the affair myself, as I was reading. Allow me to share some of my ‘favorite’ lines with you:

My adultery…lingered in my bones; a slight ache as I walked, the occasional, disturbing trace of must….I did not feel guilty, that afternoon in Gstaad, I felt suicidal. Or the flip side of suicidal: I felt like I had killed my life, and no one was dead. On the contrary, we were all twice as alive.” p.45

On Saturday night I cracked open a bottle of wine and we watched ‘The Wire’ on box set, and after that we drank another bottle, despite which I was numb, in his arms, with the thought of all I had lost….I had killed it; my best thing. The guilt, when it finally hit, was astonishing.” p.121

We talked about Aileen. Of course. We talk about his wife – because that is the thing about stolen love, it is important to know who it is you are stealing from.” p.127

The who world was disgusted with me and worn out by my behavior. The entire population of Dublin felt compromised, and they felt it keenly.” p.157

The Forgotten Waltz won the (first ever!) Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Adult Fiction, an award given out by the American Library Association, sponsored by Booklist and the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. (I was honored to be at the awards ceremony where the venerable queen of readers advisory Nancy Pearl led the ceremony [as the head of the committee that chose the book].) This book definitely deserved to be awarded for its wonderful writing and unforgivable yet relate-able themes.

I would love to hear your opinions on this novel. Obviously its themes are controversial, which can be quite fun to discuss/debate.

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