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Dance Lessons: A Novel Paperback – April 8, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press (April 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815609841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815609841
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,427,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Born and raised in County Mayo, Áine Greaney is a writer and editor living on Boston's North Shore. She is the author of the novel The Big House and the short story collection The Sheep Breeders Dance. In addition, she has written several award-winning short stories and numerous feature articles for the Irish Independent, the Irish Voice, Creative Nonfiction, and the Literary Review, among others

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
When I read the last page, I tried to flip to the next to read the final paragraph.
Aine Greaney is a talented author who draws you quickly into this beautifully written story of love and redemption.
S. Acquaviva
The novel's strength lies in its ability to make the reader understand and even empathize with unlikable people.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on April 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
Dance Lessons is a story of hidden truths and unspoken memories. The interwoven stories that comprise Dance Lessons begin with Ellen Boisvert, a child of French Canadian parents, and Fintan Dowd, an Irish immigrant working illegally as a Boston bartender. They meet and marry and are near divorce when Fintan dies in a sailing accident. At the novel's center, however, is Fintan's mother Jo; from her story all the others radiate. Jo takes stoicism to a new level; she prides herself on bearing pain and misfortune. It is "bitter sacrifice that forms the core, the credo of Jo Dowd's very existence." Jo sacrifices her future to wed a man chosen by her parents, a man who can live on the family farm and do the chores her aging father can no longer handle. She sacrifices companionship when her loquacious sister moves to the city, leaving her husband and parents to settle into a "deep silence, a silence that seems to have a life of its own." Unable to tell Fintan that she is proud of his scholastic achievements, filled with resentment of the woman he loves, she sabotages his happiness and sacrifices the bond between parent and child. Sacrifice has warped Jo Dowd, and that is the condition she is in when Ellen finds her -- a condition magnified by the cancer growing in her lungs.

At one point in the story, a character wonders what "terrible, awful thing" he would have to do to make his child "deny his very existence." That is ultimately the question Ellen seeks to answer. After Fintan's death, she learns that his mother is not dead, as he had always claimed, and she travels to Ireland to find Jo. She says she wants to put her husband's ghost to rest, but it's never clear why she believes meeting Fintan's mother will help her achieve that goal.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on April 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
Sometimes you discover a whole different side of a person, one that you never imagined, even after years of knowing them.

This happened to Ellen Boisvert, a year after her husband Fintan died. Fintan Dowd, emigrated from Ireland, had a few secrets that he chose not to share with Ellen or his family and friends back home. She had a few of her own.

The reader gets a first glimpse into Fintan and Ellen in 1986, fifteen years prior to the opening chapter where Ellen is processing emotions of grief and anger--about her unhappy and unsatisfying marriage, the drowning death of her husband, and confusion about who she is and what she wants. She has no answers.

Ellen decides to travel to Fintan's roots in Gowna, Ireland and ends up taking care of her tough mother-in-law, Jo. Greaney weaves wonderfully executed flashbacks into the unfolding complex story to lead Ellen and pull the reader deeply into discovery. While in Ireland Ellen learns a great deal about her Fintan and his story, those he left behind, and about forgiveness. As a result she also learns a lot about herself, how strong she is, and this leads to her transformation.

Dance Lessons is filled with longing, and redemption. It is also filled with beauty and promise. The writing is lovely and poignant and begs the reader's empathy. Dance Lessons will leave the reader wanting more.

by Judy Miller
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia on April 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book touched me deeply. The action pivots between Boston and Ireland. The pacing is exquisite. I literally couldn't stop turning the pages because I wanted so badly to understand how Finton and Ellen found their marriage disintegrating. The roots were in Ireland and that's were Ellen heads when her marriage ends. She goes to visit her dying mother-in-law outside Galway on an isolated dairy farm. Jo is a crusty, tough old woman on the exterior and perhaps that's why her son told his American wife his mother was dead. Jo is as solitary as her son is social though both share a strong will and intelligence.

In Ireland Ellen discovers a third woman is involved in the story of her husband's troubled past. As the old woman dies and Ellen cares for her she reminisces about her life and where things went so tragically wrong in her relationship with the son she loved so much yet pitted herself against so passionately. This a dark story with redemption veining through it. The writing is subtle so the emotion slowly builds. The emotions are heart tearing but clean. There is no manipulation. There was only one plot device that felt over the top.

This review was based on an ebook supplied by the publisher.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Cowell VINE VOICE on June 12, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
DANCE LESSONS portrays an Ireland which is not green and beautiful but haunting and empty for many of the girls who went to the local dances forty years ago in hope of finding a possible mate. One such farm girl is Jo who dreams of a vivid life but is forced to marry an older, dull man who can take over the family farm for her sickly father; her marriage, without love or imagination, turns her into a complex, doting but often unbelievably cruel mother who will try to manipulate her son into her idea of happiness. Appalled, Jo's grown son immigrates to America where he marries a girl called Ellen but cannot love her. When he dies after several years, Ellen visits Ireland for the first time to find out who her mother-in-law, whom she thought dead all these years, really is. Slowly we discover what a shattered man poor Ellen unknowingly married.

DANCE LESSONS is beautifully written. It can be as stark as a Bergman movie, scattered with breath-taking images and the bitter residue of people who settle for an empty life. Jo is both protective and crazy; one feels for her and then hates her. Ellen will step into this great sadness and somehow find a way to break the cycle and bring peace both to the family and to the memory of her failed marriage. An inspiring and fascinating novel.
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