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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sympathetically told story
Henry is recently retired and is struggling to come to terms with the changes to his routine that this brings. In combination with various other traumatic events this develops into an emotional and well written story.
The book made me feel sympathy for Henry. The problems caused by his retirement are described very well and there is a good back story which gives...
Published on 5 Jun 2010 by Janie U

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written first novel with some narrative drawbacks
I did enjoy David Abbott's first novel which was easily consumed over two days. The plot revolving round Henry Cage, a man recently retired, who through some unexpected circumstances finds himself a target of physical assault. He is also dealing with family trauma including the dying of cancer of his ex wife. Abbott pulls this altogether into a little page turner which is...
Published on 19 July 2010 by J. Aitken


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written first novel with some narrative drawbacks, 19 July 2010
By 
J. Aitken (Glasgow Scotland) - See all my reviews
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I did enjoy David Abbott's first novel which was easily consumed over two days. The plot revolving round Henry Cage, a man recently retired, who through some unexpected circumstances finds himself a target of physical assault. He is also dealing with family trauma including the dying of cancer of his ex wife. Abbott pulls this altogether into a little page turner which is well written. My problem with the book however, is the lack of character development. Interesting characters are introduced, Jack his ex wife's lover, and Maude who briefly works at Henry's firm. They are written with particular character traits which singularly fail to develop. One wonders whether Abbott's interest in them is sufficient for them to make an appearance at all. A little more development, which in a 229 page novel could easily be managed, would have filled the book out with more interest. As it is, Abbott is clearly a talent to watch and I will certainly look out for his next book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sympathetically told story, 5 Jun 2010
By 
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England) - See all my reviews
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Henry is recently retired and is struggling to come to terms with the changes to his routine that this brings. In combination with various other traumatic events this develops into an emotional and well written story.
The book made me feel sympathy for Henry. The problems caused by his retirement are described very well and there is a good back story which gives context to the present day of the book.
As usual, I found myself getting frustrated that he was not completely open with the police but I understand his reasons - a large degree of shame is to blame which further enforces the trauma of the retirement.
The structure of the book was interesting. The end of the story is told at the beginning which gives the rest of the book a sadness which is always in your mind when you are reading it.
The fact that this is a first novel is quite astounding. It is a maturely put together book with no signs of the naivety which often identifies a new novellist.
I'll look forward to reading more from this author.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An odd title, melancholic but beautifully written, 13 Aug 2010
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D. M. York (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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Life happens all at once, if you blink you may miss it. Such seems to be the message in the Upright Piano Player which in my opinion is one of the best written books I have had the pleasure to read. The novel begins with the aftermath of a horrible tragedy, and what follows looks into the past for each of the characters in a way reminiscent of The English Patient, charting the story of how a fractured family consolidated together after many years apart.

The story focuses mostly on Henry Cage, a successful and wealthy businessman who has just been forced into retirement, without his work he has almost nothing, his family has almost entirely disintegrated, his relationship with his ex-wife ended painfully and he no longer sees his son. The novel tells the story of the disintegration and reintegration with a great deal of care and paints a hugely vivid picture of a fractured family life. The novel is punctuated with beautifully real characters and situations to the extent that I did seriously find it nearly an impossibility to put the book down.

At its heart this book is a tragedy; do not go into it expecting something else. Though I have found this novel to be gloriously well written and in spite of the melancholic tone found it an absolute pleasure to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Light weight and unbelievable, 19 Mar 2011
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This review is from: The Upright Piano Player (Paperback)
This short debut novel has a few good moments but seems unable to decide what it is or where it is going. The language is light yet the subject matter at times dark with an threatening feel. The characters, with the exception of Henry are not developed, and hold no emotional grip on the reader, or are totally unbelievable such as Colin, Henry's nemesis. Several plot developments are either unlikely or go nowhere. Unsatisfactoy on the whole, although fortunately not long and easy to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sketches of Pain, 29 Aug 2010
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C. CAMPBELL "tagatha" (UK) - See all my reviews
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I feel a bit mean giving this one 3 stars - It isn't a bad book, it isn't even a middlin' sort of book, it's just that I feel it has the potential to be a four or five star book but something about it is unfinished.

'The Upright Piano Player' is billed as a book about family fracture, loss and reconciliation - which it is in essence, but I would argue that the real theme in the book is karmic balances, but this isn't explored to the fulfillment of the reader. We start off with a chapter set 5 years in the future of the rest of the book, and by not revisiting this at the end of the book I felt the need upon finishing to immediately flip back to the beginning to re-read this one chapter. The result is that this first chapter also became the last chapter for me and because it wasn't written as such, left no resolution and a faint feeling of frustration.

David Abbot writes well, with a punchy no nonsense sort of style which befits his main protagonist, but personally this book felt like an outline or sketch of a remarkable book which needed a bit more fleshing out in parts to realise its potential. A good effort, but not quite the finished article for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Adequate, 8 Aug 2010
By 
P. Millar "dazzle" (UK) - See all my reviews
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It starts with one of the best (or worst) death scenes I have ever read - you can really see and feel what is happening in all of its sickening well written 'glory' - it helps to give us sympathy for the main character before we even know who he is. The main narrative then steps back five years and details Henry Cage's life when he is forced into retirement by the company he helped to set-up. The first 100 pages come across like an Anita Brookner novel: themes of loneliness, life regretted and the boredom of retirement exposed in delightful prose. After that it starts to go nowhere in particular and nothing really develops, and by the end it doesn't tie up with the prologue - as though the writer had two different stories in mind but couldn't quite mesh them together.

It is a well written novel which doesn't take long to read and holds your attention for the duration, but it lacks something to make it very good rather than just OK.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent debut novel, 28 May 2010
By 
Alan Pavelin (Chislehurst, UK) - See all my reviews
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This excellent debut novel is by a founder-member of a leading advertising agency. It is a carefully worked-out portrayal of a retired executive (as is the author) and how a series of apparently random events leads to tragedy. Part one, just 10 pages, is set in 2004, while the rest of the book is part two, set a few years earlier with numerous flashbacks. So the climax comes right at the start, and if it had come at the end it would, I suspect, have been less effective.
Many "real-life" events and characters make their appearance, such as the millennium celebrations and the famous case of the farmer Tony Martin, jailed for killing an intruder. Even Cardinal Hume has a brief walk-on part. There is an extended conversation, on tape, between Orson Welles and an agency producer, which I didn't realise until reading the acknowledgements was an actual tape which was provided to the author. At some points the central character, Henry Cage, is reminiscent of myself, in fact a paragraph in chapter 9 describes myself quite accurately. So, for me, the character portrayal is psychologically convincing.
The only thing I haven't worked out is the significance of the title. But, overall, a highly recommended book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Triple D, 20 July 2010
By 
CJ Craig (UK) - See all my reviews
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Difficult. Depressing. Dire.
The book, as a written piece of work is excellent. David Abbott does know how to write well. The words flow and the pages turn easily, quickly, without effort on the part of the reader. But another piece of pure depression you are unlikely to find among its shelfmates. It made me despair of the single, older male out there. The man divorced, wedded to his work and then forced into early retirement who has so alientated himself from his family and friends that he is alone in this world and it is not a happy world for him or those who pass by his way.

To begin this work with such a horrific accident involving the grandson is, in my opinion, awful. It is almost as though the main character has to be destroyed before you even understand why. There is ugliness in these pages. Hateful, hurtful behaviour on the part of almost all the characters that is soul destroying. Who needs a 24-hour news channel when you have these people floating around your head? And Abbott does create characters that will haunt you. They creep up on you in quiet situations and just ruin your mood for the rest of the day or night.

There is cruelty here, too. Psychological and actual physical cruelty that I simply could not cope with, hence my two-star rating. I found it very difficult to read this book. People are suffering and there seems no end to the torture the author inflicts upon them. I can understand the high ratings because it is a very well constructed novel. Unfortunately, it was not for me. If you are having a down day, don't read this. I am sure it will cut to the quick of many a reader. Too close to reality to not have some impact upon you. Personally, I would like more resurrection and less crucifixion.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic debut novel, 9 April 2010
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Dommo (Bilbao - Spain) - See all my reviews
A thought provoking, engrossing first novel by David Abbott. Well worth a read. Without going into too much detail it tells the tale of a series of random events that leads to tragedy and heartbreak. Henry Cage is the likeable, though flawed, central character who for all his wealth lives a life full of regrets as we see throughout the book. What really sets this book apart though is the fact that it is one of those novels that you have to keep reading and keep reading and keep reading until the end and when it ends you wish it hadn't. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What A Great Debut, Hope His Second One Comes Quicker Than The First, 20 Jun 2011
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Upright Piano Player (Paperback)
`The Upright Piano Player' has possibly one of the most gripping, horrifying and gut wrenching opening chapters I think I have come across in a long time. One that isn't reflective of the book general style, though that doesn't mean you will lose interest swiftly from then on, it's a book that hooks you into someone's life only rather near the end of the tale instead of the beginning. When we first meet Henry Cage in May 2004, we are taken with him to a funeral, of whose I will not say though you know by the end of the first chapter and it's rather upsetting, especially as we are lead to the event of the death of said person.

Interesting then, and it had me wondering which is always good, why we are then taken back to November 1999. What Abbott does is to get us to know the background to the event that happens. Not in a `this is why it happened' way, though there is some of that in part, rather in a way that we get to know just how fragile Henry's world is, and indeed the world of those around him, in the five years from that point. There is forced retirement, estranged children and bitter whilst rather balmy ex-wives. Initially you think that Henry Cage has it all, the company, the flashy car, the nice property. As we read on we realise this is a lonely man on the edge of unravelling one that is sparked further by an act of random violence on New Year's Eve, one which comes to haunt him again and again and leads to an unravelling.

What's fascinating is how we watch Henry unravel whilst everyone else think things are fine. We see his reaction when he is kicked out of the very company he founded, he takes it gracefully outwardly and then we see him weeping in the toilets when no one else is around. He tells the police he is fine, and then can't sleep for fear. In fact it's the one of the master strokes in Abbott's story, we are often given insights into the person Henry is via other people. We might join them for a chapter at a certain point in their life when Henry may only meet them for the briefest of moments, for example when he takes a chance on Maude Singer when no one else wants to employ her. I liked this strange style of personal and impersonal moments. I also thought Abbott summed up the `London' attitude of forgetting people the moment they leave a company or the city.

Things move forward due to his ex-wife, who summons him to her home in Florida. She has a her reasons, and those of course you would have to read the book to discover. It adds a certain twist to the book, another interesting strand and Abbott does do this at regular intervals, lost of things are happening in the background all the time. Are they pointers to what's to come or merely just how life is? I did find the break up scene between Henry and Nessa rather emotional and added to the turmoil of all that's to come, has gone, and is going on.

I didn't think initially I would warm to Henry. I was worried he was going to be the stereotypical late fifties uncaring what-sit and initially I was slightly proved right. He is a little arrogant, but he is also incredibly fragile and a bit of a home body, which is something he and I had in common, along with his love of books (in fact books become a theme). He's human, he has his foibles yet at the same time he is a man prepared to admit when he's wrong and fight passionately for what he believes in when he needs too. I enjoyed spending time with him, even if occasionally (after I had finished laughing at something awful he had done) I wanted to tell him to get a grip. He is also rather lonely and rather vulnerable, if also rather difficult. I liked him.

So were there any faults to the book? I would say there were two small ones, and yet they are going to sound bonkers because they are also strengths. Abbott creates characters which are fully formed people. So fully formed that sometimes he adds strands to them you want to learn more about, an example - if slightly selfish one - is of his son and daughter-in-laws book shop which I could have read lots and lots more about, he then closes the door on them either for good or for a while. It feels like some of the strands he starts off don't quite get finished. He also tells the story in a very random order. One minute we are in 2004, then back to 1999 but not following a straight chronological trajectory as we get varying flashbacks along the way. It's well done, it's an interesting style, yet I would imagine it could confuse or put people off. For me it worked, I just put the effort in and read a paragraph or two once or twice to place them.

Overall, I really, really liked `The Upright Piano Player'. I am quite cross with David Abbott for not writing something sooner, he waited until he retired, but then I wonder if this book is just so good because its been fermenting in his brain for so long? I am hoping that we get another one soon as this is my sort of book, and I wasn't really expecting it which makes it all the better.
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The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott (Paperback - 31 Mar 2011)
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