My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions by Tania Hershman

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My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions by Tania Hershman

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Buy My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions by Tania Hershman at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Short Stories
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A gem of a book containing very short stories that gush oceans of meaning.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 136 Date: May 2012
Publisher: Tangent Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1906477608

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It's said that the art of short-story writing is totally different from that of novels as the writer only has ten or so pages to accomplish what others do in two to three hundred. Imagine, therefore, telling an entire story in prose conveying depth and meaning in fewer words than this review. It may be difficult but, apparently, not downright impossible as Tania Hershman has nailed it with honours. In fact her first collection The White Road was commended by the Orange Prize judges of 2009.

This second collection of 'flash fictions', Upright Piano (for short!) may be a tiny tome, but it's excellent value providing us with 56 stories in 132 pages. Most of the stories are less than two pages long but size doesn't matter (honest) as each story provides food for thought that's still enjoyed and digested after the final word's been read.

The title story itself is a tale of sad longing as the narrator imagines her dying mother as a piano. Yes, it sounds odd put like that, but in this author's hands it's one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read. Contrastingly (in style not beauty) The Painter and the Physicist is a lovely little vignette, comparing viewpoints and showing the value of diversity. My husband, a theological student, also tells me that it's a reworking of the argument between the Enlightenment and the other lot but we don't need to know that to enjoy it.

Some of the stories are topical, like The Google 250, concerning celebrities demanding privacy whilst getting off on their fame. While others, such as the deeply affecting account of domestic violence, Colours Shift and Fade, will take root in your memory and refuse to leave.

However, although each of Tania Hershman's stories has a point, not all are immediately apparent. She mentions her parents saying they enjoyed all the stories, even those they couldn't understand and I see where they're coming from. For me that moment came with Trams and Pies, seemingly about a woman with mothering issues abusing a sales assistant but I'm sure there's more lurking, awaiting my ability to piece it together. The remarkable thing, though, is that the language is so hypnotically poetic, I know I'll keep returning to the dysfunctional shopper till I get it.

Rating this book was a dilemma. As there are stories that I don't fully comprehend yet, perhaps I should give it a four-and-a-half? On the other hand, the language in each of these 'flash fictions' shot past my mind's eye, bursting onto my tongue as, in places, its beauty demanded that it was read aloud. I know I'll revisit its pages repeatedly for decades to come. In fact, despite having a free review copy, I've actually also bought it for my e-reader so that it becomes a companion and, to me, that seems to indicate five stars at the very least.

A special thank you to Tangent Books for sending us a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this, then you'll also enjoy Tania Hershman's first book of short stories. If you're already a fan, try the heartily recommended All Shall be Well by Stephanie Tillotson and Penny Thomas.

Buy My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions by Tania Hershman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions by Tania Hershman at Amazon.co.uk


Buy My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions by Tania Hershman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions by Tania Hershman at Amazon.com.

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