Brilliant, understated style

2011-08-17 00:00

ANNE Enright is a previous Man Booker Prize winner, so one expects to read something above average from her. At first I wasn’t too sure that The Forgotten Waltz was ­delivering as much as Enright’s ­reputation promises. Was Gina’s story about her ­romantic involvement with a married man, even though she is married herself, not just a Mills and Boons Romance with the covers ripped off? Enright’s ­understated style is brilliant even when the reader suspects that Gina, the love-sick heroine of the story, is nothing more than a lust-driven self-obsessed young woman.

Gina is married to a robust and uncomplicated man, Conor, when she first meets Sean Vallely. She finds him unremarkable until a ­minor interaction with his nine-year old daughter intrigues her. He and his wife fuss over the girl, who seems larger than other children her age. A few more meetings make Gina even more aware of the wiry middle-aged man, until he comes to work at her company as a consultant. Suddenly, their closeness sparks ­an ­irresistible attraction, which can only end in bed.

Gina ­becomes obsessed with Sean, even driving to his house and watching his family going through its nightly rituals.

Gina’s mother dies suddenly. Gina moves into her home, leaving Conor without much explanation. Sean stays over with her more often, and is finally brave enough to move in more or less permanently. Gina can’t understand his obsession with his daughter. To her he seems overly concerned with her welfare. It is ­only when she learns that the child has epilepsy that she begins to understand his need not to let his daughter down. She also begins to understand his need for her, Gina.

This is a subtly told story, which is more than a Mills and Boon with its cover ripped off. It’s an accomplished portrait of the ways in which a child’s illness can change the very fabric of a family.

BOOK REVIEW

The Forgotten Waltz

Anne Enright.

Jonathan Cape

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