10/10/2011 04:10 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2011

Anne Enright's The Forgotten Waltz: Fall's Sexiest Book

It's relatively rare for a sophisticated, thought-provoking novel to titillate, but Anne Enright's new book "The Forgotten Waltz" is a scintillating exception to the rule.

The premise: Over the course of a single snow day, Gina Moynihan tumbles through her memories of the affair that her life has come to revolve around and the people it has affected, including a child who witnessed an illicit kiss.

Why we love it: You know those books that unfold and surround you? This is one of those. As Gina (married) moves back and forth among the moments that led up to her relationship with Sean Vallely (also married, to someone else) and the moments that followed, Enright mesmerizes with her insights into the convoluted paths human thoughts and desires take. Gina for a while wants a "house that would clean your life ever time you looked out of it." She recognizes that "nothing makes you jealous like something you didn't actually want in the first place" and how a lived situation -- like adultery -- can feel staged even as you move spontaneously through it: Gina says of the early days of her romance with Sean, "the whole thing played surprisingly close to farce."

But besides its fierce intelligence, this book is just plain sexy. There are enough illicit mbraces here to fill the trashy romance novel this isn't, all delivered with Enright's eye for idiosyncrasy and sense of humor -- at one point there's "the copulatory crackle in the air." And if Gina is occasionally difficult to like, she's harder not to. How can you not want to spend an afternoon a character who remarks, "Languages are my thing. Not the romance languages, unfortunately, I do the beer countries, not the wine"?

Read the first chapter.

Read Anne Enright's thoughts on writing about adultery.