The Forgotten Waltz
A Novel

Anne Enright
Gina is married to Conor. "The internet was made for Conor," she says. He likes swimming, with much "splashing and whooshing." She thinks he wears too many clothes, but, for her, being married to him was "sensible."

Then she meets Seán, who is married to the (also) sensible Aileen. Seán has eyes that are gray like the skies of Ireland are gray (only in Ireland it's spelled "grey.") Seán also, she reports, has a nice back. He's a kisser, which was "a sweet argument and pursuit, so tranced and articulate." Gina and Seán go off bed, off in Montreux (both are there on business trips).

    After the kiss --- the five minute, ten-minute, two hour kiss --- the actual sex was a bit too actual, if you know what I mean.

I'm not so sure that I know what she means, "too actual." But she --- I mean Enright --- is such a writer that we forgive her almost anything. Even the obscurity of that kiss, that night.

This is Gina on the little Swiss train that she took up into the mountains the day after the tryst, the train "a neat, old-fashioned little thing, with bench seats."

    It emerged into high meadow lands strewn with Alpine flowers and grazed by chocolate-bar cows with bells around their beautiful, pendulous, mauve necks.

"Up there, my adultery --- I didn't know what else to call it --- lingered in my bones: a slight ache as I walked, the occasional, disturbing trace of must."

Enright knows her words, her English words ... and laces poetry in prose: those "chocolate-bar" cows, the "trace of must." It's all very British. Wait, this is Ireland: well ... it's all very Irish Cream.

And for a tale of adultery --- Gina and Seán with and without Conor and Aileen: it's all upper middle-class, no bashing people around, no sending out for poison or guns, sending in the detectives. These are serious business people, property owners, doing their email and consultancies and their daily exercises. Those kind of people who don't call in the dogs.

When the secret stops being secret, Conor gets red in the face, Aileen becomes even more frosty, Seán gets a little distant (but he always was --- he's seventeen years older than Gina --- despite being such a kisser) ... and at one point Gina goes a little balmy. She parks there next to the house where Seán lives with Aileen and daughter Evie, and there are a couple of breathless, say-nothing telephone calls with Aileen.

But it's discreet, these people are not bullies: they're cosmopolitan even when they find themselves in the oldest cage of them all: that dratted marital system set up so many centuries ago to keep us from rutting too much ... even in Dublin, 2007 with the gray skies and the snow, the snow being general over all of Ireland.

§   §   §

Some of the lines in The Forgotten Waltz are a gas. "Love is a story we tell ourselves," is one I could get behind. Then there's Fiona, Gina's sister, who has a problem with men: "They don't want to shag her so much as pine for her."

There's the matter of anonymous hotel conjoinings: "I think of them after we left, and only the air knew what we had done." And when the divorce proceedings start, there's a balance sheet response, as befits business people: "Who would have thought love could be so expensive?"

    I should sit down and calculate it out at so much per kiss. The price of this house plus the price of that house, divided by two, plus the price of the house we are in. Thousands.

Things get complicated (and expensive) when marriages fall apart, and Enright does the best she can to give us the sum of it all, but ultimately it wears on one. It takes a lot of effort to uproot two entrenched marriages.

Towards the end I found myself beginning to drift off, setting the book down for a couple of days, not picking it up. I imagine Enright did too ... and so Gina (and the reader) get to spend an awful lot of time with Evie, the fusty child complicating this romance. She's a typical boring not-so-verbal thirteen-year-old and she isn't all that much fun.

And I think The Forgotten Waltz doesn't necessarily end. More, it dwindles: the band members begin to stash away their instruments, the dancers stuck on the floor don't really know what to do next, lights get shut down. Mercifully, Enright chooses to let the whole train just rattle to a stop ... making us all wonder if we ever knew where we were supposed to be going in the first place.

--- Lolita Lark
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