manoush

This is an odd little novel, but not without a certain allure. It tells the story of Gina, a middle-class Irish professional who leaves a loving husband to carry on an affair with the married Sean, another middle-class professional she meets through work. Gina and Sean and their circle of family and friends are utterly ordinary and not glamorous in any way, which is part of the novel's originality. It doesn't conform to any expectations we may have about the subject of extramarital affairs. There's no highstrung drama, stormy confrontations, or obsessive behavior. There's only ordinary people being attracted to each other without knowing why, and an ever-present sense of the essential mystery at the core of every relationship and indeed, every individual. Gina is not a know-it-all narrator who reveals to the reader in perfectly composed paragraphs everything about her motivations. Instead the novel reads like extracts from her journal, introspective reflections and ruminations that leave much unsaid and unexplained. Particularly powerful is how Gina experiences the constant insecurity of being the other woman, an insecurity about where and how she fits into her paramour's life. Towards the end of the novel the writing focuses on Evie, Sean's only child who suffered epilepsy when she was younger. Here the writing beautifully captures Gina's confused feelings toward Evie, alternating between annoyance, jealousy, and even love. I think "The Forgotten Waltz" is only nominally about an ordinary woman having an affair with an undistinguished married man. Its originality is in how it renders the interior life and memories of a woman baffled by her own behavior yet acutely attuned to her feelings.

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