Vintage £7.99 (230pp). #163;7.59 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

The Forgotten Waltz, By Anne Enright

An adulterous affair lies at the heart of Anne Enright's novel, her first since her Man Booker win in 2007. The storyline might be a classic one but, like Flaubert, Enright has created an entirely believable world in which nobody is entirely sure of their own motives.

The novel's narrator, Gina Moynihan, is a Dubliner in her mid-thirties who works in IT. It's at her sister's housewarming party that she meets her future lover, Sean Vallely, an older man with "too beautiful" eyes. Ironically, it's only because she feels so secure in her relationship with her long-term partner, Connor, that she dares to return the stranger's gaze. The moment of their meeting spreads through the novel like a stain.

Looking back from the present, Gina relates how the affair progresses over the next several years. The lovers also turn out to be colleagues, and their relation-ship is played out in foreign hotel rooms. Enright is at her funniest when exposing her heroine's contradictory emotions. In one scene Gina is head-over-heels in love with Sean, the next she finds herself "slightly repulsed" or finds "the actual sex was a bit too actual". Mid-way through their liaison, she's mortified when Sean acts like a professional adulterer and presents her with a Hermès scarf and a bottle of scent that smells like rain and fabric freshener. She even finds herself embarrassed, at an office meeting, by his choice of fountain pen.

Gina is a self-consciously unreliable narrator, spotting the flaws in her arguments even as she's making them. It's never clear to us, or to Gina, why she's destroying her marriage to the companionable Connor, but we are on her side even when she appears casually cruel or sour. There's little sympathy for Sean's daughter, Evie, or his seemingly remote wife, Aileen. "I got her straight off," says Gina "and nothing she subsequently did surprised me or proved me wrong." After her first encounter with Sean, Gina feels suicidal, or rather, as she puts it "the flip side of suicidal: I felt I had killed my life, and no one was dead. On the contrary we were all twice as alive."

Less important than the momentum of the affair is Enright's playful and beautifully expressed examination of how it feels to cross the line. As in the tradition of adultery novels, the adulteress comes to a bad end. Gina finally ends up living with Sean and acting as stepmother to the petulant Evie. There's no arsenic in store, just the mundane inevitability of everyday life.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Scandi crush: Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    Th Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

    Rebranding Christmas

    More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up