Thursday, October 13, 2011

Enright's The Forgotten Waltz

Like a drug addict, book addicts have similar nightmares, that is, being somewhere without something to read! And so it was that, even though I had loaded my Nook with plenty of reading material, my deep seated fear of being without a book got to me. What if the battery life wasn't as long as advertised? What if our electrical adapter didn't work in the bush? I packed light, I'm getting really good at that, but what harm could it cause if I threw in just one paperback?

Thanks to my friend Jessica I had an autographed copy of Anne Enright's new book The Forgotten Waltz, so on a day of rest, when I needed respite from the heartbreak of The Warmth of Other Suns, I settled into another kind of heartbreak - relationships. Enright won a Booker Prize a few years ago so you know that the writing here is stellar. We settled in on our porch, periodically joined by the peacocks, Don making a spreadsheet of our expenses (thank goodness he enjoys that kind of thing!) and me to my novel. I couldn't put it down.

Cape Town Day 2, Sudwala 040.JPG

I've said this before and I have to say it again. How on earth do writers of distinction like Enright take the mundane happenings of anyone's everyday life and turn them into high drama, suspense, and raw, biting humor? How do they create characters so flawed yet so sympathetic? How do they take the "same old, same old" story of an affair and a divorce and elevate it to literature? I'm so envious!

Two sisters, Gina and Fiona, two men, Conor and Sean, both pairs as different in make up as any pair can be, are the central characters, but the heart of the story, the catalyst, is really Sean's strangely "different" daughter Evie. Because of Evie's misbehavior, because Gina needed to sneak away for a smoke, because Sean, too, was putting distance between himself and his wife Aileen, eyes met and an unspoken world of knowledge passed briefly between Aileen and Gina, then Gina and Sean.

It would be a few years before Gina and Sean would act upon their attraction, keeping the affair secret for as long as possible, but one knows these things don't often go unnoticed by those around us. What's interesting, in retrospect, is that the reader doesn't truly "get" the attraction between these two and at times Gina and Sean question it themselves. The more visceral feelings this reader got was for the discarded spouses, the innocent, almost puppy dog-like, loveable Conor, and the cold, suspicious, but knowing Aileen.

Their individual reactions as knowledge of the affair becomes clear are so palpably realistic that I shake my head in wonder. This novel is spot on in its depiction of a disintegrating marriage, the suspicions, the guilt, the crazy mad sex as Conor and Gina try desperately to recreate their initial attraction, then the unwinding of shared responsibilites, the house, the bank accounts, the families turning away in disappointment and disgust. It's all too sordid yet all too impeccably depicted.

Enright is brilliant! This novel is far from uplifting but, as literature goes, it's an inspiration.

No comments: