BOOK REVIEW: The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne EnrightThe Forgotten Waltz
By Anne Enright
Completed May 11, 2012

Had The Forgotten Waltz not been nominated for the 2012 Orange Prize, I probably wouldn’t have read it. When I read The Gathering by Anne Enright, I found it to be such a bleak novel; I was not in a hurry to read something by Enright again. Thankfully, The Forgotten Waltz was a better reading experience.

At the core of this novel is an examination of modern marriage. Gina is newly married when she meets one of her sister’s neighbors, Sean. Over time, Gina and Sean begin to have an affair. When Gina’s mom died suddenly, Sean and Gina become  little less careful about their secret, and eventually, they must make decisions about their marriages and their own relationship.

Sean has a daughter, Evie, who experienced unexplained seizures as a child, leaving Sean’s wife, Aileen, overprotective and nervous. Enright does a commendable job showing the strains an unhealthy child can have on a marriage. Furthermore, Enright taps into the difficulties of becoming involved with a person who has a child. As the story progresses, Gina realizes that she will always be second to Evie’s needs. She must decide if she can live with that.

Gina is an interesting character. If I knew her in real life, I would have to plan an intervention. She is fallible and borderline delusional about her relationships – not only with Sean, but with her husband, sister and deceased parents. She reaches for cigarettes and alcohol a lot, but what she really needs is a good therapist.

All in all, The Forgotten Waltz was a solid read that explored relationships, love and marriage. It just goes to show you: sometimes you can’t judge an author by just one book. (  )

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BOOK REVIEW: The Dancers Dancing by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne

The Dancers DancingThe Dancers Dancing
By Eilis Ni Dhuibhne
Completed January 26, 2012

It’s the summer of 1972, and a group of teenagers from Dublin are traveling to west Ireland for “Irish College” – a time when they are immersed in Irish language, food and culture. The Dancers Dancing is a coming of age tale for most of the characters, but it’s young Orla who grows the most during this summertime adventure.

Orla and her friend, Aisling, are staying together with two older girls in a country cottage where they walk to the school house for lessons. The idea is to wholly submerge the students into Irish culture. They are not allowed to speak English, and by staying with families along the countryside, they are immersed in the pastoral lives of their fellow Irishmen and women. However, Orla is already on familiar ground. Her family is from the same village, which she tries to hide from her classmates, and Orla spends most of the summer trying to avoid her crickety aunt.

The Dancers Dancing is not a fast-paced, complex novel. It moves steadily with little dips and curves, like a river twisting through the countryside. My frustration with reading The Dancers Dancing has nothing to do with the writing or story; it’s my lack of knowledge about the plights of Ireland. I didn’t follow the significance of why the teens were being immersed in Irish culture, or fully understand the struggles between the Catholics and Protestants. Dhuibhne assumes her readers have an understanding of these intricacies, but sadly, I do not. Additionally, there was a lot of Irish language in the novel, with not enough context to interpret what was going on. A glossary would have been helpful for this reader.

None of this is the book’s fault. I just wish I had more historical and cultural information to more fully appreciate this novel. Despite my frustration, The Dancers Dancing was an enjoyable read. Dhuibhne writes beautifully, especially about the landscape surrounding the students. Shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2000, The Dancers Dancing is a light treat for fans of literary fiction. (  )

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