The Pain Tree – Olive Senior
Olive Senior’s new collection of stories – The Pain Tree – is wide-ranging in scope, time period, theme, locale and voice. Her characteristic ‘gossipy voice’ is present in many of the stories. As well there is reverence, wit and wisdom, along with satire, humour and even farce.
The stories range over almost a hundred years, from around the time of the second world war to the present. Like her earlier stories, Jamaica is the setting. Saying that, the range of characters presented are universally recognisable as people in crisis or on the cusp of transformation. While most of the stories operate within a realist mode, Senior in this collection is also exploiting traditional motifs. Some topics covered include;
- Revenge (“The Goodness of my Heart”)
- A bargain with the Devil (“Boxed-in”)
- A Cinderella story (“The Country Cousin”)
- A magical realist interpretation of African spiritual beliefs (“Flying”)
Olive Senior’s collection of short stories shine for their ability to capture the boundaries between rich and poor; rural and urban in Jamaica.