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Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance Reader’s Guide

By Lloyd Jones

Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance by Lloyd Jones

READERS GUIDE

Lloyd Jones, author of the prize-winning Mister Pip, turns his perceptive eye to the world of tango in this novel originally published in his native New Zealand in 2001. Weaving two love stories across three generations, Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance is a novel of forbidden seductions and timeless devotion. In a cave set back from an ocean coast, a group of New Zealanders seeks refuge during the Great War. When one of them begins giving tango lessons, he sets in motion powerful events that transcend continents, forever changing the life of his beloved Louise. Decades later, his granddaughter will become the keeper of family secrets. The past is replayed one day when she asks a shy young dishwasher to become her student in the art of the tango. In haunting, sensuous scenes, this singular storyline evokes the tender dance of life itself.

The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Lloyd Jones’s Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance. We hope they will enrich your experience of this enchanting novel.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Your reading group may wish to play recordings of some of the music described in the novel, by artists such as Anibal Troilo or Astor Piazzola. If you do so, ask yourselves what makes this music unique. What specific emotions does it evoke?

2. What did the novel’s opening scenes tell you about Schmidt and Louise? What assumptions did you make about their devotion in life and in death?

3. Why did Rosa first approach Lionel? How did her feelings toward him change throughout the novel? What made their attraction for one another so intense?

4. How were you affected by the passages that were narrated by Lionel? What was he able to reveal through his storytelling voice? Were any aspects of the past beyond his understanding?

5. Discuss the power of dance, tango in particular, as it evolves throughout the novel. As a language, what does the tango allow lovers to say to each other?

6. What does the novel’s title say about the turmoil experienced by each generation portrayed in Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance? How did the characters create security for each other? How do they add to one another’s peril?

7. What did Schmidt and Rosa teach their dance partners, besides the tango?

8. What did New Zealand and South America represent to the characters? How did the novel’s settings create meaningful backdrops for the episodes in their lives?

9. Chapter seven provides details about Louise’s youth and the effects of the Great War on her upbringing. What does she have in common with Billy and Henry? How does she manage the problem of equal affections among the men in her life?

10. In chapter fourteen, Louise receives Schmidt’s invitation to join him in Buenos Aires, though she has made a comfortable life with Billy. Why doesn’t Rosa’s husband respond to Lionel in the same way that Billy reacted to Schmidt?

11. What did Lionel’s parents teach him about relationships? What other legacies did they impart to him?

12. Discuss Henry’s fate. In what small ways are he and Clara able to heal each other?

13. Does Lionel’s generation experience romance as passionately as Louise’s generation did? How does Lionel’s affair with Rosa prepare him for loving Chrissie?

14. What did you discover about the history of World War I by reading Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance? How familiar had you been with its repercussions outside Europe?

15. What themes of solace and comfort recur throughout this novel and the author’s award-winning Mister Pip?

 
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