Dance Lessons by Áine Greaney

Dance Lessons by Áine Greaney is about the dance we play with our husbands, wives, in-laws, and our own parents as we strive to keep things amicable and not reveal too many of our own secrets, especially secrets we’re not comfortable with ourselves.  Sometimes, it is about the dance the characters play with themselves, balancing the truth and the lies.  Set in Boston, the North Shore, and mostly Gowna, Ireland, Greaney’s prose sways like a graceful dancer telling Ellen Boisvert’s (a young lecturer at Coventry Academy) story.  She learns that her Irish husband, Fintan, was not an orphan as he had told her, but has a mother still in Ireland, and there are many other secrets he never revealed to her while alive.

“Ellen has read this about nurses, psychotherapists, doctors.  Even the largest or most life-saving job boils down to its component pats, a roster of daily tasks.”  (page 132)

Despite Ellen’s desire to leave her husband, she stayed with him for more than a decade and never left him before he died in a tragic sailing accident.  Upon learning that she has a mother-in-law, she writes a letter to inform Jo Dowd of her son’s death.  After an eerie conversation with the woman and several ghostly dreams, Ellen decides to travel to Ireland.  Each step and each movement is part of a larger story, a larger existence.  Fintan’s life and decisions had more of an impact on those around him than he realized, from his mother to his one-time girlfriend and his current wife, Ellen.  Greaney’s story is not one just of grief, but of moving on, stepping out into the light and claiming one’s life back.

“It comes at night, that dagger-pain in the lower back.  It jolts her awake, then circles, snakes up to her shoulders.  You can bear anything, she tells herself, then tries to go back to sleep.  She reminds herself of all the pain, years and years of it, she has borne and borne well, without troubling a soul.  Giving birth.  And there were bee stings as a child.  Or once, years ago, in one of the upper meadows, a hay fork went straight through her foot.”  (page 53-4)

In death, there is a renewal, a new beginning, but people have to be willing to reach out and grab it.  Ellen, like Jo, has lived in the shadow of her sister, but unlike Jo, she is given the chance to excel to take a hold of the reins and steer her own destiny.  Greaney’s story is heartbreaking, heart warming, and as turbulent as the weather of Ireland and the human heart.  Readers also get a taste of the Irish hierarchy and the depressed economic times of the 1950s, and the influx of foreigners.  From jealousy and rage to pity and understanding, the range of emotions in Dance Lessons are reminiscent of the ballet and operatic pieces of some of classical’s greatest artists.

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.


This is my 2nd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.



This is my 50th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.


  1. Thanks so much for introducing me to this book. I’m thinking that it is definitely something that I will enjoy reading and will be adding it to my TBR list right away!

  2. This is the first time I’ve even seen this book but it sounds exactly like my type of book. Also fits into the types of books I’ve been reading lately.

    • Ti, you should really check this book out. I loved the writing and Jo is a character that is really complex….harsh and yet sympathetic at times.

  3. I have got to get my hands on a copy of this one! I linked your review on the main challenge page. 🙂

  4. Wow, it looks like everyone loved this book. I need to check it out.

  5. Great rebiew 🙂 It does sound like something for me, and not only cos I like Ireland

  6. I LOVED this book too – the author did such a good job with a complicated character in Jo. It would have been easy to vilify her but she made her a character I felt sympathy for at times.

    Consider nominating the book in the fiction category for the Independent Literary Awards!

    • Wasn’t her character 3D? I loved how complex she was. She was so real to me…I felt sympathy for her, but hated her at times too.

  7. Jennifer Karin says

    Loved, loved Dance Lessons! Thanks so much for giving Ms. Greaney the recognition she deserves : )

  8. Sounds like you enjoyed this book as much as I did! 🙂