The nine vividly rendered stories of place and character in this
book are set in Jamaica, both rural and urban, some present-day, others
looking back several decades. Senior's gift for fine characterization,
for recreating the music of everyday speech, pervades these tales, which
explore notions of home and exile as well as the intricate realm of the
human spirit - its fallible nature, its indomitable strength against the
sometimes downward pull of fate. Her finely etched characters include:
Cissy and the Blackartman; Uncle, who returns from England with the
heart taken out of him and an angry case against the Queen; Miss
Evadney, of "the pressure and the arthritis", who fights to protect her
precious chocho vine until matters are taken from her hands by her new
Rasta neighbours; Eric, a mild-mannered businessman, and Sybil Pearson,
in whom Eric glimpses hope - until their affair creates scandal, and
changes events irrevocably; Sadie, a young girl caught between the
refined world of Mother Dear and the more nourishing, troublesome one of
their servant Desrine and her daughter Manuela.
Evocative, honest and wonderfully
nuanced, these are indeed stories by one discerning in both head and
BOOKS IN CANADA
...a feast of endlessly inventive language.
GLOBE AND MAIL
...a juxtaposition of lively voices.
NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
...a feast of imaginative language, cadence and imagery...
It is worth the time spent reading Discerner of Hearts just to hear
these people talk.
THE TORONTO STAR
Senior writes of characters endlessly concerned with their prospects, an
attitude that keeps them in perpetual motion.
Her eye is on her characters, their worlds and the shape of their lives.
Her ears are open too, and she opens ours as well.
Senior's next book will be awaited with enthusiasm.
Senior knows her characters well and treats them with dignity. Women of
strength live in these stories: mature women who are alert to life
around them and young women who sense that it is their destiny to grow
up knowing who they are.
THE OTTAWA CITIZEN
...stories laced with compassion for the gravity and irony of the
THE LONDON FREE PRESS
Discerner of Hearts is accessible, engrossing and amusing. It is
thoughtfully wrought - each story carefully textured, balanced, resolved
with not a single excess word.
...an accomplished and affecting collection of stories
...a strong talent and a distinctive voice...
THE CANBERRA TIMES
...a lilting, haunting collection...
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Olive Senior shows us that talent - truly great, world-class talent -
can appear everywhere.
Discerner of Hearts has a cadence that is measured by hearts beating or
breaking ... The individuals in these stories have a quiet dignity and
are skilfully brought to life as much by the emotions they feel, or are
incapable of feeling, as by Senior's masterful use of dialogue.
With her latest collection of wild and unforgiving and still somehow
kind short stories, Olive Senior triumphs again... Hot summer
reading at its best.