Wednesday, December 05, 2012

First Wednesday Book Review Club: THE UPRIGHT PIANO PLAYER, David Abbott

I have read THE UPRIGHT PIANO PLAYER twice in the last two years due to book club misunderstanding. It is a short book that seems much longer in terms of the ground covered, the number of characters, the years that pass, the plot.

Henry Cage is an enigmatic protagonist to say the least. Despite what seem outwardly like a successful life, he is left by his wife, spurned by his son, a stranger to his grandson, forced out of his career, and harassed by a man who knocks into him after a party. Yet none of these things lead him to much self-reflection. He seems unable to give much and is puzzled at the consequent results of his behavior.

This is a book that has been reviewed favorably yet not one of the women in my book group enjoyed it or even thought it a very good novel. These were the reasons they expressed:: they had no more understanding of Henry Cage by the end of the book than at the beginning--oh, yes, he had changed but it was not clear why. There were too many POVs that seemed unnecessary. Sometimes it was hard to sort out whose head we were in. Every character gets moments of reflection. So many in fact that this may have been what kept us from understanding Henry. The book begins with a horrific incident--an incident so horrible that we all dreaded having to go through it again. The author seemed determined to drape every character in tragedy, in fact. 

Having said this, I have thought about this book quite a bit. I wish we had been told more about his childhood, what made him such a inward man, so unreflective and aloof. I know back stories are unpopular nowadays but a character like Henry needs one if we are to have any hope of peering inside his head. What made Henry the man he was?

For more book review, see Barrie Summy

Who is the most enigmatic character you have read about? 


Sarah Laurence said...

Great review - it's as interesting to hear why a book didn't work as why one did.

Ellen Booraem said...

Okay, here's the question: If you disliked a book while you were reading it--for the very legitimate reasons you cite--is it redeemed at all by the fact that you keep thinking about it afterwards? I don't think it's redeemed much, but it does indicate the author had something interesting going on.

Not sure I want to put myself through reading this book, though. Thanks for the warning!

Linda McLaughlin said...


I appreciate your very thoughtful review. I can see why the other group members found it unsatisfying. Too many points of view sometimes means that it's really all from the auhor's POV, i.e. omniscient, the God's-eye view. That can work but it can also keep the reader from identifying with any of the characters. Sounds a bit depressing, but there must be something there if you keep thinking about it. Curious.

I like the title but will probably pass on reading it.

Thanks for dropping by my review of The Book of Lost Fragrances. If you give M.J. Rose a try, the first in the series is The Reincarnationist.

Barrie said...

Did the others in your book club think about the book after the way you have? Thanks for letting us know why this book didn't work. I'm finding more and more that just because a book is popular doesn't mean I'll enjoy it. I count more on our club's reviews. Thanks, Patti. Hey, are you headed my way this winter?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think they disliked it more than I did mostly.
Yes, I will be in La Jolla from 1/5 to 2/16. Let me know if you are free for lunch.