The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Goodreads: An adroit first novel of exceptional grace and emotional power by a legendary British ad executive.
“David Abbott’s The Upright Piano Player is a wise and moving debut, an accomplished novel of quiet depths and resonant shadows.” —John Burnham Schwartz, author of The Commoner and Reservation Road
Henry Cage seems to have it all: a successful career, money, a beautiful home, and a reputation for being a just and principled man. But public virtues can conceal private failings, and as Henry faces retirement, his well-ordered life begins to unravel. His ex-wife is ill, his relationship with his son is strained to the point of estrangement, and on the eve of the new millennium he is the victim of a random violent act which soon escalates into a prolonged harassment.
As his ex-wife's illness becomes grave, it is apparent that there is little time to redress the mistakes of the past. But the man stalking Henry remains at large. Who is doing this? And why? David Abbott brilliantly pulls this thread of tension ever tighter until the surprising and emotionally impactful conclusion. The Upright Piano Player is a wise and acutely observed novel about the myriad ways in which life tests us—no matter how carefully we have constructed our own little fortresses.
My take: Before I deconstruct the book, I want to make it clear that I could not put it down. In a voyeuristic manner, I kept reading and reading until the very end. When the end arrived, I was surprised it was over. The way the book begins is gut-wrenching and disturbing as Henry is attending his grandson's funeral. The grandson he loved more than his own life and whose life ended on his watch. The details of the death are revealed and they are awful. That was 2004.
The story begins in 1999 as Henry ends his 30 years as a business man, rich and forced out of his own company by partners. Through disjointed scenes, we meet Henry's ex-wife, Nessa, his grown son, Tom, and his wife, Jane, and the grandson, Hal. We continue by also meeting a rascally character, Colin, and his girlfriend, Elaine. Then there is Maude, Ed, and Charles then Walter, Mrs. Abrahamson, and Jack.
Henry kicks out Nessa because of an affair. His son is distraught and cuts him off. Nessa has cancer and is dying. Jack loves her. Henry has a grandson and he doesn't know. Colin is an unsavory character who has anger issues. Elaine has a rockin' bod. Maude is peripheral and I can't understand her part. Ed, Charles, and Mrs. Abrahamson...???
So Henry's story ends in Florida but we know that it later continues in England after the funeral. And I'm sorry to say that I don't get it and I don't want to. I was a voyeur all day by reading this book and it disturbed me with the beginning and then the random acts of violence not brought on by karma or by anything but chance. Perhaps that is the point which means that I wasted an entire day reading about a random man in England who lived a very sad life and walked around in circles, interacting with characters that offered him nothing and did not enhance the story except the mental images of naked women which might be tintillating to some. I found them useless.