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The Piano Maker

The Piano Maker

A Novel

Book - 2015
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The suspenseful, emotionally resonant, and utterly compelling story of what brings an enigmatic French woman to a small Canadian town in the 1930s, a woman who has found depths of strength in dark times and comes to discover sanctuary at last.
Publisher: [Toronto] : McClelland & Stewart, [2015]
Copyright Date: ©2015.
ISBN: 9780771071287
Branch Call Number: FICTION
Characteristics: 275 p. ; 21 cm.


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The ending of the book was a bit trite, just too little left to the imagination. Nevertheless the plot was fascinating and the female protagonist was strong and resourceful. The issue of 'assisted death' both for her elderly mother with end stage cancer and her business partner with blood poisoning would make an interesting book club discussion. Like we did to Alberta's Joseph Latimer, (1980) would Canadians bring this woman to a murder trial today? The Piano maker had endured so much tragedy and trauma, stigma and separation. I guess she did deserve a good rest in her old age.

Nov 01, 2018

For me, the book was OK but everything seemed to fall a little flat. Also, I could not get past the fact that that is not the way that the Canadian legal system works. I am OK with a bit of artistic licence, but this was a key part of the book and was wrong in so many factual ways. I find it irritating when authors try to create drama using scenarios that would never have happened.

Mar 26, 2018

This is an easy read. It offers interesting characters and the story goes from France to Canada taking detours in Indochina and Africa. It illustrates the development of a piano making company, the horrors of WWI, the market in the early 20th century for ancient treasures from exotic countries and the harshness of Canadian winters in Western Canada. There is an intrigue and you find yourself rooting for Hélène Giroux the main character in the book. Despite so much going on in the novel, it is not even 300 pages, it is concise and has little irrelevant descriptions or scenes.

I enjoyed the book, it is what I describe, even with everything going on in the story, a quiet read. There is little detailed description and superlative text.

ehbooklover Sep 11, 2017

This title is set in one of my favourite places (Nova Scotia) and I loved that when the story alternated between past and present it felt completely seamless. I also really liked that the female protagonist was so complex, strong, and believable. A quick read that I really enjoyed!

May 04, 2017

Although this is a rather quiet, low-key novel, nothing earth-shaking, no rockets in the sky, I'm giving it the full 5 stars. Because it does what it sets out to do: it tells a woman's very personal story, brings all the story elements together, establishes the setting, both in France and in Atlantic Canada, places the protagonist among other deftly drawn "salt-of-the-earth" characters who help to define the space, set the tone without getting in the way. Although Hélène remains a very private person, I learned to admire her quiet determination and inner strength. There is certainly no purple tint to Palka's prose but he captures each moment, each scene in seemingly simple but effective phrases that are perfectly chosen for the moment. A very satisfying book. Kurt Palkin is a fine writer and I look forward to reading more from him.

monini Mar 31, 2017

I really enjoyed this novel and read it in one shot. It was also very interesting to learn about the art of piano making and to follow Hélène's challenging journey through WWI and her difficult life in Canada.

katarina_biblio Mar 27, 2017

Started off slow, but I found myself carried along in the world of the novel, unable to stop reading until I finished! Lovely to read a story set in Canada as well.

Jan 10, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Written in simple language, the author made the characters entirely believable as he did with the plot. If you know anything about the north, you can easily understand the struggles experienced by Hélène and Nathan. Palka keeps up the suspense until the end. He also thoroughly researched the piano-making process which is well described in the beginning of the novel. A quick read as well.

Dec 06, 2016

Beautifully written. Could not put it down.

Nov 20, 2016

The story slowly grows in intrigue becoming harder to put down.

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Jul 19, 2016

Helene's story unfolds piece by piece - compelling, straightforward and engrossing. I fully enjoyed it and will read "Clara" originally "Patient Number 7".

SPL_Melanie Mar 22, 2016

Frenchwoman Helene Giroux arrives unannounced in St. Homais, a small town on the French shore of Nova Scotia, sometime in the 1930s. She seems to be running from a dark secret in her past...which is slowly revealed through a series of flashbacks.

Helene is a complicated character; she grew up in France, the daughter of a successful piano maker, and becomes an accomplished piano maker, factory owner, and pianist herself.

But of course, 1914 is coming, and during the war Helene loses everything. Acquaintance Nathan Homewood, an American who had handled North American sales of their pianos, offers to sell all the fine wood laid away in her barn before it is destroyed -- and does so, while telling her that it was lost at sea. When she discovers his theft years later, she forces him to pay her back the thousands he had stolen. But due to circumstances, she also agrees to join forces with him in his latest project, antiquities dealing.

The book weaves back and forth, revealing more of Helene's past and her long relationship with Nathan. When the story opens, however, she is settling into her new small town life as an enigmatic stranger...until the RCMP places her under house arrest, to be retried for the murder of Nathan Homewood in 1929.

The small town setting seems to be the one still point in Helene's life, which allows the narrative to focus on the action in her past. This means the book starts out a bit slowly, until her history begins to be shared. Still, the story is enough to keep you turning pages, waiting to find out just what her deep dark secret is. And there is enough in it to make you consider rights and wrongs and consequences.

Helene is both a mysterious and appealing heroine. Her life is eventful, even if a little implausible at times. But this is an engaging story told in a style somewhere between literary novel and adventure yarn. Enjoy it for the surprises, and for the straightforward storytelling.


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