the forgotten waltz, unreliability, and wine lines

If you were to ask me to recommend a novel written in the first person, I would say Anne Enright’s The Gathering. I’ve read it twice and I’m thinking about reading it again. But I just finished her most recent novel, The Forgotten Waltz, and although I didn’t like it as much, in some ways, it makes better or more use of the powers of the first person, in particular unreliability.

In an interview in The Paris Review, Enright says:

The wonderful thing about this kind of unreliability is that it reflects the unreliability of our own narratives about our own lives.


Gina Moynihan is the kind of person who realizes what she’s saying in the saying of it. And I think many of us are similar. Until you start articulating something, you don’t quite know what it is, and you don’t see the mistakes or flaws in your own argument until they’re in the air. She’s in the process of realizing what she’s saying, in the process of realizing what she knows or what she has refused to know–that’s the journey of the novel.

From Gina in The Forgotten Waltz:

But it was the first time I had said the words out loud, and it might have been true all along but it became properly true then. True like something you have discovered. (157)

Two other things. One of my favorite lines ever, which now makes me look at birds in a new way:

I think how kissing is such an extravagance of nature. Like birdsong; heartfelt and lovely beyond any possible usefulness. (81)

Finally, writer Hermione Lee wrote a dead-on but spoiler review in The Guardian, which includes this great summary of some of the wine lines to be enjoyed in The Forgotten Waltz:

They measure out their lives in large glasses of imported wine: there’s the phase of being “mad into chardonnay”, the “sauvignon blanc” years of happy marriage, alsace riesling as a spur to adultery, cracking open a “Loire white” as a reaction to bereavement.

So I started writing this post early this morning, then stopped to exercise and run some errands, and now it’s almost 3:00, and I have to leave my desk again. But I find I have still more to say about this novel. Until tomorrow…

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8 thoughts on “the forgotten waltz, unreliability, and wine lines

  1. While working with Deirdre Gogarty, I started reading Irish authors and discovered Anne Enright. Not only is The Gathering one of my favorite first-person novels, it is one of my favorite novels, period. Like you, I’ve read it twice, and I’m sure I’ll read it again and again.

    Unlike you, I’ve not yet read Enwright’s latest, The Forgotten Waltz, and have that to look forward to. 🙂


  2. Do you see how daffy I get without sleep? Misspelled Enright in my earlier comment.

    Almost finished with edits and my eyes are shot. Nevertheless, I started The Forgotten Waltz last night. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Cynthia.


  3. Pingback: Book Review: Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz - Opinionless

  4. Just stumbled sideways off your daily post into the 2008-9 posts about Anne Enright. Now I love you even more than I already do! Yours is the only blog other than “Dove Grey Scribbles,” my favorite of all time, that I read regularly. Both of you actually talk about writing and reading in this unpretentious way. You both have a real ability to capture visual images as well. Back to Enright – as with you and a couple of your posters here, I rank Enright among my all-time favorite writers. When I find a writer I like, I read everything she wrote. And I love all of Enright. The Gathering I’ve read three times, and now I’m listening to it on tape in the car. You do a really good job of capturing some of those lines that just knock one over. Her book sits by my indoor bed (I sleep in a tent by the water in the summer with the Douglas fir and eagles overhead). Reading about the family taught me something about my own Irish half.


    • Kirie, I LOVE it when someone discovers an old post they like–thanks so much for letting me know you found your way here. My husband does the same thing when he finds a writer he likes–and he reads the books in the order they were written. Oh, you make me want to read The Gathering again and listen to it too. I have to say with Enright, I didn’t love some of her earlier stuff. I’ve just started The Green Road.
      –And I LOVE when you remind me of your tent, especially with such a lovely sentence and visual: “I sleep in a tent by the water in the summer with the Douglas fir and eagles overhead.”


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