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on 18 August 2012
My Mother Was An Upright Piano is a collection of flash fictions, most of them shorter than one thousand words.

The title is apt since many of the stories are about family relationships, often mothers and daughters. The mother-daughter stories are very personal, intimate, honest and touching, such as The Lion and the Meteorite Can Never Touch You and Trams and Pies.

Hershman is an expert in describing family relations and she does it needing no more than a few hundred words (Under the Tree, The Family, My Mother Was An Upright Piano). These are small stories with a big impact.

I also loved the stories about sisters in Ankle Socks and Hair in Bunches and of best friends in Graveside.

Some of the stories in this collection are deliciously surreal, such as Like Owls, Tiny Red Heart and In Triplicate.
Others are satirical and darkly funny. I enjoyed the social satire of the opening story The Google 250 and Underground, the art criticism in Containing Art, the satire of friendship in Retreating, I Retreated, and the gender stings in The Tragedy of Tragic Men.

Relationships is another theme in the collection, such as the quantum romance in If and the fast forward modern-day fling in At Camden Town He Said He Loved Me.

Some stories made me wish we could have known more about the narrator, such as My Flickering Self. Other stories are so intriguing I would have liked to see more of the aftermath of the events, such as Beam Line. But there is no doubt that Hershman is an expert of the very short story.

The themes in the collection are nicely cohesive and the voice and narrative structure well varied. I've had the pleasure of reading many of these stories in their individual publication, but reading them all together for a full impression of the author's warm voice and deft descriptions, was even better.
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on 19 November 2012
Because I teach creative writing, and have taught flash fiction (very short stories) I want to avoid the professorial tendency to analyze too much and to be too prolix. I want to stress the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Tania Hershman's work: it's fun. Many of the stories are humourous, even wacky--"Einstein Plays Guitar" is one example, "Vegetable, Mineral" another--and many are thought-provoking, often because they have unusual perspectives. In "The Short Tree Has Its Hand Up", which is inspired by a painting by Corot, for instance, sentient and insentient beings have thoughts about human activity, as they do in "The Apple Trees Watched and Wondered". Some of the stories work the way poems work: you get an intense, vivid flash of vision and an epiphany. An example of this is "Colours Shift and Fade" in which a we glimpse a story of spousal abuse through the eyes of a baby. Many of the stories are 'experimental' like the title story, which begins with the arresting lines "My mother was an upright piano, spine erect, lid tightly closed, unplayable except by the maestro. My father was not the maestro." There are stories with scientific themes--one in which a scientist strips to her underwear on an impulse and immerses herself in a tank of liquid in which neutrinos are "fizzing and and streaming through her body", for example; there are stories that are mini-novels, like "Manoeuvres" or "The Lion and the Meteorite Can Never Touch You", and there are stories that are simply very short stories, quite conventional, often poignant tales of loss, of relationships unravelling, with sharp dialogue and touching insights. There are stories that riff off a word, an image, a motif, again like poems.

I hope I have given some idea of the vast range and scope of this collection. To call these stories chameleon-like is to understate the case: they not only change hue, but shape and form. This is a masterful collection of short-shorts, as good as any I have read. And it's not just clever: it's fun too. My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions by Tania Hershman
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on 22 November 2012
These 56 short fictions are beautifully written, often quirky and always intelligent. If you enjoy easy, obvious stories, this collection probably won't be for you. Even after many readings, I'm not convinced I've understood some of these pieces. However, when I felt I made the right connections, the effort was worth it. The themes are diverse, ranging from family relationships to wider issues of failed human interactions or reflections on mortality. My favourites were, 'waving on the moon', 'her dirt', 'my mother was an upright piano' and 'ankle socks and hair in bunches'. Recommended.
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on 21 May 2012
These are beautiful fictions that break down any boundaries between short stories, poetry, philosophy and science. Hugely original, Hershman is fearless in her mastery of language in service of analysing the human heart and the world that surrounds us. Beautiful, sharp, energetic and frequently funny and moving in equal measure, this is a jewel box of tales from which you can read a handful or just one at a time, and reflect at leisure upon its meaning. Each piece is a tiny spark to fire the imagination.
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on 9 May 2012
I am one of those who endorsed this great collection of contemporary fictions prior to publication, and was delighted to do so. Tania Hershman is a true original who is not afraid to do her own thing - and does it very well indeed. Her observations of character are sharp, her prose clear and lucid, and her take on the world is unique. If you have not yet met this writer's work, you have a treat in store.
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on 5 April 2016
Somewhat surreal stories, so you have to be 'in the mood'
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on 5 May 2013
This is a highly original, charming, extremely readable set of quirky little stories. Recommended for reading at bedtime, while travelling, or any time that needs to be filled with superficially easy stuff that nevertheless reverberates in the mind for a goodly time.
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on 22 May 2012
A true original, Tania Hershman's collection of Fictions is everything you would expect of a writer who embraces life in all its grand minutia and revels in the discovery of the surreal, the touching, the sublime.

A perfect gift, a warm and wonderful read. Brava, Tania and her publisher, Tangent Books, for showing us the magic that can happen when outstanding talent meets professional passion.
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on 7 October 2012
Each of these stories is a gem. Hershman is one of the most interesting voices in the genre of brief, unexpected fiction. I've been fortunate to hear the author read these stories several times, online and even once in person. These are exciting stories in terms of narrative voice, daring creativity, innovative style. There's no WOW that's WOW enough here. Maybe WOWSA?
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on 26 November 2013
Brilliant collection of flash fiction by one of the leading writers of the genre. The work is intriguing, beguiling and beautifully crafted.
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