The Piano Maker by Kurt Palka

IMG_1469“… at first whenever the image came to her it created terror and the fear of more loss, but after some time it brought only gratitude for what had been and was now hers in memory forever.”

It is winter time in the 1930’s when Helene Giroux arrives in the small Canadian town of St. Homais.  She discovers a Molnar piano in the church, the kind her family manufactured many years ago during better times, before the war.  Her impressive piano playing and musical talents quickly integrate her into the town, however an incident from her past comes to impact her present. Through flashbacks the story of Helene’s life is slowly revealed; her upbringing, her marriage, the devastation of war, the events that led up to a tragic moment in time and the truth behind it.

The Piano Maker is an intriguing story told in a clean, straightforward way that is absolutely lovely and page-turning.  It starts with Helene’s arrival in St. Homais, which for me was a slow start, however as the story flashes back in time I became immersed in her life as a portrait of a strong woman emerged. The book is only 275 pages but manages to present so many themes and aspects, all of which come together beautifully.  There is the story of Helene’s upbringing where we learn about her family, her dedication to music, and her views on love and relationships.  Then there is the story of her life during and after the war, where the author effectively portrays the difficulties, the challenges, and the overall devastation of war.  Throughout all of this there is a mystery aspect as we slowly discover what tragic event occurred in the past that led to Helene’s current circumstances.  It is all quite engrossing and Helene is at the heart of it all with a stoic, level-headed nature that is very appealing.  The Piano Maker is truly a fascinating, wonderfully written little story with a strong protagonist.

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