The Forgotten Waltz is one of those densely recapitulative novels that seek to interpret emotional crack-up from the angle of its ground-down aftermath. At the same time, it is not really a book about hindsight. Sometimes extending information to the reader and sometimes deliberately covering its tracks, sometimes inviting sympathy for its characters and sometimes implying that sympathy only gets in the way of knowledge, it offers the enticing spectacle of a heroine determined to decode the human acrostics that strew her path while darkly conscious that most of her judgments are either horribly provisional or downright inchoate.
Everything kicks into gear back in the early 2000s, down by the sea in fashionable Enniskerry, where twenty-something Gina (good-hearted, feisty, likes a drop) first catches sight of Sean Vallely, a neighbour of her prosperously married sister. As it happens, Gina is about to plight her troth to hairy, cyber-crawling Conor, but a near-inaudible bat’s squeak of sexuality hangs in the air. A one-night stand at a business conference on the shores of Lake Geneva is followed by a chance re-encounter and, after Gina recommends him as a consultant to the outfit for whom she labours — Rathlin Communications ‘puts European companies on the English-language web’ — a full-blown affair.
Meanwhile, there are three other narratives boiling away. The first features Gina’s glamorous yet declining mother, to whose home the lovers repair after her death. The second stars the Irish economy, which is about to go down the pan, taking a great many neatly observed middle-class dreams about tiled kitchens and holiday homes with it. The third follows Sean’s daughter Evie, who fell mysteriously off a swing when young, has fits and whose squeak of alarm when coming across her father in flagrante at a New Year party offers a symbolic high-point.