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Books

Book Review

‘The Forgotten Waltz’ by Anne Enright

In double trouble, and disappointment

It is easy to understand the popularity of Anne Enright’s fiction, both in Ireland where she lives and works, and here. Her characters suffer, and we always have room in our hearts for other people’s troubles. Their troubles are frequently romantic and sexual, sometimes financial, invariably familial. Guilt and blame do their usual nasty work. But the strongest feeling in Enright’s new book, “The Forgotten Waltz,’’ is disappointment. In her previous novel “The Gathering’’ (2007), which won a Booker Prize, feelings are rawer: heartbreak and misery resulting from early and prolonged sexual abuse - a staple in today’s fiction much as consumption was a century and a half ago.

Enright’s setting is Ireland, where families are very big - too big, at least under her scrutiny, to flourish emotionally. Siblings dislike each other, or like each other overmuch; few children can bear their parents. Both “The Gathering’’ and “The Forgotten Waltz’’ suggest the scarring effects on the previous generation of poverty and of interminable and unterminatable pregnancies; the books reveal the secret that sexual freedom has not turned out as satisfying for this generation as had been expected; and that prosperity has brought problems of vulgarity and when it dwindles, problems of downward slides. Enright writes about these subjects with authority.

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