three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
56-Jan-Feb-2012
By: 
Anne Enright
user_rating: 
0

A-The Forgotten WaltzIrish writer Anne Enright won the Man Booker Prize for The Gathering (4 of 5 Stars Selection Jan/Feb 2008) in 2007. She is the author of seven novels as well as short stories, essays, and other works.

The Story: Gina Moynihan enjoyed many of the benefits of Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" boom in the early years of the century, working in IT and expecting to make a killing on the appreciating value of her home in one of Dublin's upper-class suburban neighborhoods. But the cardinal sin of The Forgotten Waltz is not murder or greed but adultery, as Gina slips into an affair with Seán Vallely, an older, married man whose young daughter suffers from a mysterious neurological disorder. Gina recalls the affair and its aftermath after the fact with a mix of uncertainty, regret, and candor that makes The Forgotten Waltz not just a story of romance gone awry, but a nation's conscience too.
Norton. 263 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780393072556

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"[Enright is] so insightful, in her hardhearted way, that reading her is scary. You keep seeing yourself, and the reflection is rarely flattering." Nancy Connors

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"Gina narrates the story and supplies the book's beating heart. She's the latest in Enright's sequence of cherishable, all-but-tangible central female characters, this one worldly-wise, sharp of eye and wit, whose emotional candor knocks the judgmental legs out from under the reader." Elsbeth Lindner

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Ultimately, The Forgotten Waltz evokes Enright's Irish literary colleagues less than it does a tour de force like Ford Madox Ford's novel The Good Soldier, a book whose narrator has only a partial and flawed idea of the story being told. The Forgotten Waltz is a nervy enterprise, an audacious bait-and-switch. Cloaked in a novel about a love affair is a ferocious indictment of the self-involved material girls our era has produced." Francine Prose

Wall Street Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"In The Forgotten Waltz reality is crystal clear and the damage that characters do to themselves and others sharply drawn, and yet Ms. Enright is never obvious or heavy-handed. She has made a careful study of the way people interpret and react to their parents, siblings, children and partners and captures much that is startlingly recognizable." Clare McHugh

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Forgotten Waltz is a subtle and suggestive novel. Its Achilles heel is that the chemistry between Gina and Sean is not quite convincing or apparent enough--he remains something of a stuffed shirt." Robert Cremins

Onion AV Club 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Enright's prose bears a Whartonian sense of financial troubles being injected into an already-turbulent world where the assurances of years ago no longer hold sway. ... As in the Man Booker Prize-winning The Gathering, Enright allows her main character the thrill of remembered joys, without letting her slip away from blame." Ellen Wernecke

Boston Globe 3 of 5 Stars
"She is not the equal of Tolstoy or Flaubert. Nor is she the equal of her own brilliant contemporaries, the late Penelope Fitzgerald or A. S. Byatt. ... To her fans The Forgotten Waltz will provide a continuation of old pleasures. Newcomers might be better off starting with The Gathering." Edith Pearlman

San Francisco Chronicle 2.5 of 5 Stars
"[W]hile it's easier to enter [than The Gathering] ... Enright's seventh book of fiction and fifth novel, The Forgotten Waltz, feels foggy and unmoored. ... Enright scans [Seán] from oblique angles--surely a deliberate choice, but its effect distances and perplexes." Joan Frank

Critical Summary

In The Forgotten Waltz, critics observed the same qualities that led them to love The Gathering and Enright's other fiction: well-developed, self-aware, but critically flawed female characters; a fine eye for family dynamics and how they speak to larger issues in society; and a plot that unfolds gradually but still holds the reader's interest. A few felt that this novel was not as strong as her previous work, noting that Enright did not describe events and characters, particularly Seán, with the same precision. But novelist Francine Prose, writing in the New York Times, argued that Enright has audaciously given the voice of her novel over to a character given to triteness and self-absorption, transforming the book's occasionally inexact prose into a measure of the exactitude of its social observation.

Also by the Author

The Gathering (2007): Veronica Hegarty, one of 12 children, has distanced herself from her past and her large Irish family by becoming a solidly suburban, middle-class wife and mother of two. Her carefully constructed shield comes crashing down when her favorite brother, Liam, an alcoholic, commits suicide.