this is not a review: the forgotten waltz by anne enright

Oh, Anne Enright. I do love your words so. The way they lie there on the page, end to end, magically forming sentences. I’m sure it’s all quite effortless of course, this brilliant way you have of conveying things. I have no doubt it’s as simple as wandering about your life, observing, thinking, mulling, fashioning bon mots almost accidentally as you shine your shoes or select grapes from the fruit monger’s stalls, and then having them fall out of your head, the words I mean, clunk clunk, onto the pages at just the right time in just the right order. Oh look! you might exclaim, That’s exactly what I meant to say, exactly what I was thinking, I don’t need to change a comma… someone peel me a grape…

The Forgotten Waltz, Enright’s most recent novel, begins simply, with a glance over a shoulder and a child. It’s classic girl meets boy. Gina meets Sean. Both are married. Both of them not especially unhappy or happy, not especially well matched or mismatched.  And then there’s the child—his, Evie, who is not quite right—a tendency towards seizures or something never clearly defined—a situation that parallels Evie’s eventual role in Gina’s life, and vice versa. There is little emotion expressed yet it’s all about emotion, driven by a thirst for it and then regret in its inevitable passing and morphing into something resembling real life. The way things do.

What gives the book a delicious tilt is the vantage point Enright chooses to tell the story, i.e. from Gina’s current status happily (happily?) living with Sean. The thrust of the story is her recollection of the affair, its building blocks and motivations, the changes that occur, things given up and left behind in the pursuit of what feels like love and in fact may well be. The eager or reluctant, sometimes regrettable, tradeoffs and surprises en route, hidden costs and, most importantly, the thing no one ever thinks of: the landscape at the end of the day— the stuff that comes with as well as that which is forgotten once the music stops and the lights come on.

… In which case, Evie’s room is like something after the tide went out: dirty feathers, scraps of paper, endless bits of cheap, non-specific plastic, and some that are quite expensive:

Do you know how much those fucking things cost? says Sean, going through the compacted filth of the Hoover bag, looking for a game from her Nintendo.

My stuff, on the other hand, does not matter. A Chanel compact, skittering across the floor, my phone pushed off the arm of the sofa, the battery forever after temperamental.

Gawd, says Evie.

She does not say ’sorry’, that would be too personal.

Evie was always a bit of a barreller, a lurcher; her elbows are very close to her unconscious. At one stage they were going to have her checked for dyspraxia, by which they just meant ‘clumsiness’, but I guarantee you I have seen her move with great finesse. In this house, she is only clumsy around things that belong to me.

She eats nothing she is asked to eat, and everything that is forbidden. But she eats. Which I consider a minor miracle. She filches, she sneaks and crams. She waits—a bit like myself indeed—until her father is not there. The place we meet most often is at the fridge door.

Two months ago, when Sean was at the gym and Evie was complaining I had finished all the mayonnaise, I tossed my bag on the kitchen table and said, ‘Why don’t you go and buy your own fucking food?’

Not pretty, but true.

Evie looked at me, as though noticing me for the first time. Later that day, she said something to me—something that wasn’t just a whine, like, ‘Why don’t you have Sky TV?’

She said, I can’t believe you have so many shoes.

And I had to leave the room to stuff my knuckles in my mouth, and pretend to bite into them, behind the door.

—from The Forgotten Waltz, by Anne Enright (McClelland & Stewart)

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