When in doubt, try Irish. That's my general rule when I'm looking for something to read. I'm a sucker for Irish authors. I can hear the accent as I read the words. I love the names of the locales – Enniskerry, Youghal, Clonskeagh – and I like to roll the characters names around in my mouth – Aileen, Fiona, Fiachra.
In Anne Enright's The Forgotten Waltz the Irish voice belongs to married woman Gina Moynihan as she narrates her affair with Séan—himself married and a father. Gina isn't exactly an unreliable narrator, but she certainly doesn't attempt to be a sympathetic one. The affair begins in the midst of the Celtic Tiger economy of the early 2000's, when acquisitiveness of all kinds was the norm among Dublin's smart, affluent set, and Gina almost seems to regard her affair as a more exciting alternative to buying a vacation home.
But the novel shifts backward and forward in time, so between the passages where Gina describes the thrill and danger of the early days of the affair are passages where she reflects more soberly on its long term effects. Much like the Irish economy, the relationship loses some of its luster, and collateral damage becomes clear. Their marriages ended, Gina and Séan live in a house that they cannot sell, and Gina reluctantly faces the effects of their actions on Séan's daughter.
I admire Enright's courage in presenting a character who does not ask for the reader's sympathy. Gina is sharp and funny, sometimes self-delusional and sometimes bracingly honest, Irish to the bone but with elements of Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina transposed to the new millennium.
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