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…