Monday, January 2, 2012

The Forgotten Waltz: A Novel, by Anne Enright

One of my favorite editions of The Economist each year is their summary of best books of the year. This year, I picked out the titles I thought sounded most promising and duly created a list on my iPhone so I could be prepared when I next embarked on a book buying binge.

Unwilling to wait for books to arrive in the mail (and having been tipped off by my mom that I would be receiving gobs of books for Christmas), I went to the book store. Of the twelve books I noted in my digital list, Barnes & Noble had exactly three in stock. That's three books out of the multitudes of books declared as "must reads" by one of the most respected news magazines in the world.



The manager looked none too pleased when I commented on the fact (but then, I don't believe he knew what The Economist was, as he assumed a puzzled expression, so...).

The two books I decided to buy were The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright and The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson.

Today, we will address The Forgotten Waltz.

I like Ms. Enright's style of writing. I will say that much. It is spare, and intriguing - mostly because the paucity of detail leaves the reader wondering about certain events that go unremarked... unless I just forgot about them - and in its austerity is beautiful.

The story, however, left me a bit cold.

I wanted to like the book so very much. Really, I did.

The heroine is described as "flawed and unforgettable" on the book jacket, which might lead the reader to think that she will be someone you empathize with, whose choices you support.


My main issue with the character and her love interest (a different person from her husband, natch), is that they don't try to address the problems in their current marriages (yup: double adultery), but instead have an affair, heedless of the damage it might do to the other people involved, particularly her love interest's adolescent daughter.

Most of the novel - told from the main characters point of view - is spent trying to justify herself to the reader, her family, her friends; trying to convince us that she had no choice but to have an affair.

I'm not a close-minded person, where extramarital relations are concerned. I can see where an extramarital affair might be justifiable, or at least understandable. In this case, however, the affair seems unnecessary.

Granted, there is some satisfaction at the end of the book, when the heroine is trying to make herself seem less of a house-wrecking witch in the eyes of her lover's child. She points out that "it was going to happen one way or another. I mean it could have been anyone [breaking up your parents' marriage.]" To which the child answers truthfully, "But it wasn't... It was you."

At least, in the final exchange of words between home-wrecker and home-wrecked, the heroine is not able to escape from her culpability. Small relief.

(Also, I couldn't figure out why the book was entitled The Forgotten Waltz. Maybe I just missed something. It's probable. But the title seems unrelated to the events, seeing as not much of the heroine's affair is forgotten, and there is very little waltzing (as in, none) in the book itself.)

There are books I keep forever, and books I give away or sell on to used book stores.

This one will go to Half Price Books sometime in the very near future.

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