The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott

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The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This debut novel is about the uptight Henry Cage, how his public face and private persona clash on a very regular basis and affect his whole life.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Maclehose Press
ISBN: 978-1-906694-84-5

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The central character, one Mr Henry Cage (he'd approve of the courteous form of address) is white, middle-aged and middle-class. He appears to have a perfect, enviable life. Reaping the substantial rewards of a successful business, he's acquired along the way a lovely London home, a wife and a family. All boxes ticked, you'd think.

But no one leads a perfect life - even in fiction. Henry Cage is well ... caged in, to a certain extent, by facets of his character. He's fussy, even pernickety and a bit of an introvert. As his nice, orderly life unravels around him, he'd possibly announce that his best friend and loyal companion was - a good book. He's altogether much safer with the inanimate rather than the wholly unpredictable animate. Much more content with something, frankly, that doesn't have a pulse, won't answer back.

It's rather interesting to note that most of the women in Henry's life (and it is only a handful) appear to have nice, old-fashioned names. Then again, he's a nice, old-fashioned man, after all. The beginning of the end for Henry is around the turn of the new millennium. A chance event which could happen to anyone, at any time, has a drastic knock-on effect for Henry.

Abbott starts the novel - at the end. And yes, there is a very good reason for this. All the reader knows initially is that Henry Cage is grieving. The 'piano' as in the title of the book, gets a mention here and there. It's a constant in Henry's life. Almost like a comfort blanket. But why would a professional, successful man need a comfort blanket? Henry plays his piano now and again. He chooses to play tentative jazz.

'Serious' is Henry's middle name. When the new millennium is celebrated in central London with fireworks etc ... Henry is reminded of newsreel footage of the Gulf War . Not exactly brimming with joy, is he? Abbott gives us a lovely couple of lines straight after, as Henry describes the fireworks display The bangs are sharp, high on treble and he would like to have given them a little more bass ...

A series of domestic events sees Henry missing out on family life. We all know that we cannot go back in time. The handful of characters are well written. Henry's flaws are like gaping wounds on the page. I immediately took to his long-term, no-nonsense housekeeper, Mrs Abraham. It's telling that in all the years she's served the Cage household, she is addressed daily as Mrs Abraham (not her first name - except in very extreme circumstances when Henry has lost the plot). He's a gentleman through and through but in these less formal times, he's rather distant.

Abbott is telling us that for all Henry's financial security, he doesn't seem to be able to conjure up much joy in his life. His down-at-heel attitude comes across like a cancer and - like some cancers, it has a very nasty habit of spreading, infecting, killing. Abbott also highlights the flaws of human beings. None of us can turn the clock back and do things differently the second time around. As the saying goes ... 'It's not a dress rehearsal.' An engrossing read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy The Concert Ticket by Olga Grushin.

Buy The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott at

Buy The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott at


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Thomas Xavier said:

If there is a reading equivalent to wine tasting this is it. You need to savour this very slowly with all your senses. I'd say this book is to be read in the quietest moment of your day. Only then can you breathe with the characters. Heartbreaking, joyous, lyrical, musical. This is contemporary fiction at its best. Thomas Xavier PS: A little lament. Is there a typographical error in line 13 on page 21? "went on taking take the firm's clients to the dinners and..." it reads.