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Fiction Literary

Dancing Lessons

by (author) Olive Senior

Cormorant Books
Initial publish date
Sep 2011
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
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When her house in the Jamaican countryside is damaged by a hurricane, Gertrude Samphire is sent by her estranged daughter Celia to Ellesmere Lodge, an assisted living centre. Gertrude is unimpressed with her new wealthy neighbours, and spends most of her time alone. It is only through writing that she finds her voice, and she begins to record her life in a notebook: memories of her gothic childhood, impetuous marriage, and struggles with raising a family. Gertrude slowly comes out of her shell, establishing and mending the relationships she has been missing for so long – and comes to realize that she may not be alone as she once felt.

About the author

Olive Senior was born in Jamaica in 1941. She lives both there and in Canada. Her first collection of short stories, Summer Lightning (1986), won the Commonwealth Literature Prize. She has published two subsequent collections of short stories, The Arrival of the Snake Woman (1989) and The Discerner of Hearts (1995). She has two collections of poems, Talking of Trees (1985) and Gardening in the Tropics (1995). She has written on different aspects of Caribbean culture and was editor of Jamaica Journal.

Olive Senior's profile page


  • Short-listed, First Novel Award
  • Short-listed, Commonwealth Writers Prize

Editorial Reviews

“Senior is particularly deft at exploring social class, maternal terrain and distance. The territory she writes about could not interest this reader more … Senior skillfully depicts the space between mother and children… What’s remarkable at times is Senior’s subtle depiction of family tension, the prodding between mother and daughter, the apprehension of what the one does or mainly does not know of the other.”

The Globe and Mail

“Senior’s insights about gender, race, and class in Jamaica reveal her keen eye for details.”

Canadian Literature

“As a result of Senior’s feel for Jamaican social types, [the emotional dynamics that drive the plot of this novel] take on a strong local flavour in Dancing Lessons … Senior knows [the speech of inner Jamaica] inside out.”

National Post

“Senior employs insight and dry humour throughout.”

Quill and Quire

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