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The Piano Man's Daughter

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,580 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
As the story opens, Lily, the heroine of Timothy Findley's Victorian-Gothic-style novel as seen through the narrative of her son Charlie, is ending her days in an asylum; her life unfolds as a Dickensian tale of deprivation and struggle between the feminine and the coldly masculine, leading to that "madwoman in the attic" denouement. Yet Charlie is reclaiming his mother's ...more
541 pages
Published (first published 1995)
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Jennifer (aka EM)
Timothy Findley is one of those authors who has always simmered away on the backburner for me. He seems overshadowed by his other contemporaries, i.e. the Canadian pantheon: Atwood, Munroe, Richler, Davies, Laurence. Because he was much else - an actor, a critic, I think also a broadcaster? - his writing competes with his other selves. He deserves wider readership, which seems to be something I say every time I review one of his books. Partly, that's a "note to self" - Jen, fer god's sake, why h ...more
Oct 26, 2007 Lorraine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Canadians
Shelves: canadian
What I found most intriguing about this book is it's narration. As a whole, it is narrated by the grandson of the "Piano Man" but he tells the story based on what he learned from his (grandson's) grandmother and mother (the title character) and his own observations. So the story really spans three generations.
I can't articulate what it was about this book that made me enjoy it. I chalk it up to a well-written and unique story with interesting characters. It's not difficult reading by any means,
Sara Norquay
Aug 19, 2008 Sara Norquay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those who like historical fiction about families with a skeleton in the closet this book will not disappoint. The three generation drama is set in Ontario, Canada and begins during the early part of the 20th century. How various characters react to the inherited madness of the person referred to in the title makes it is hard to put the book down. The beautiful writing creates time and space for the illumination of the reader's own understanding of family values.
Jan 02, 2012 Caleigh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I started reading this a couple of weeks ago, but partway through got to a section that I found a little too disturbing for my taste ... seeming to foreshadow something rather "Flowers in the Attic"-ish ... so I set it aside. I'm relieved to report that while there were misdeeds done, they were nothing of this magnitude and I was able to finish the book without shutting my eyes or skipping ahead.

The Piano Man's Daughter is the fifth or sixth Findley book I've read, and probably the third to in
Jun 05, 2013 Robyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I chose this as my Canadian Lit book to read in English Lit class after having read Not Wanted On The Voyage (also for that class) a few months ago. I really loved Not Wanted On The Voyage, and this book was just as amazing (though very different).
I ABSOLUTELY LOVED it from the beginning till the end and it was just so beautiful.
I laughed, and I cried (for 2 whole was very hard to see the words haha)and by the end I didn't want it to end.
Lily and Lizzie are my favourite characters
May 08, 2008 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book a lot more... readable than I thought I would. Not because Findley's confusing, or anything, but because I often find his books excellent but too dark to read all in one sitting. This one was considerably lighter.
Kathy Karchuk
The story was sad and full of turmoil. Charlie, son of Lily, the Pianoman's daughter, narrated the story. His search for his father and his fear of fathering stemmed from his mother's mental illness. The understanding of mental illnesses at the turn of the century was archaic and cruel. Hopefully, as a society we have come to better understand and support those who suffer mental (and physical) disabilities.
Oct 10, 2008 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
couldn't put it down. will read again and i don't ever read anything twice.
Jan 09, 2016 Anita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I give it 5 stars however at times it was difficult to read as it was so heartbreaking. A generational story that tells of Ede, her daughter (the Piano Man's daughter) Lily and then Charlie-the narrator. I loved Findley's way of writing the history of Toronto in the early 1900's and how the Great War impacted the world. Ede-hopeful, then filled with despair, Lily-so damaged, so alive and tragic, and Charlie the caregiver- that for much of the book I forgot he was only 7 years old. Many of the 's ...more
Jan 19, 2009 bookczuk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to bookczuk by: Nancy Oakes
My feelings are mixed on this book. It took me a little while to get into it, but that was not the author's fault. The writing is beautiful, the characters compelling. But for some reason, the initial time I picked it up to read was not the right time for me. I put it down, determined to get back to it shortly. It took me several months to pick up again, but once I did, there was no stopping me.

There are a multitude of stories in this book. But ultimately it is about family and about love. Not
Mar 15, 2012 Trinda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 19, 2012 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: must-reads
Another brilliant Findley Book. I realize that I might have a bit of an obsession with his novels. What I found most intriguing about this book was his use of Toronto landmarks. As I live in Toronto this book felt very real to me in a way that might not have happened otherwise. As Findley always does, in this book he wonderfully portrays the underdog and the struggle to belong in a society that is far from the perfect we often like to perceive it to be. The part of this book that really stood ou ...more
Oct 22, 2011 Dianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This novel was a little slow starting but once it got going it was fascinating. I found it a bit muddled at first, what with the switching back and forth from one time period to another and from one character's life to another. Written with a detachment that it took awhile to get used to, it was a strong story once I got adapted to the style and got everybody sorted out. Somewhere in Section Two, I was hooked.

I must confess that I have started making lists of characters as I read so that I won't
Jan 21, 2009 Abbyb1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The fact that I took so long to read this book has absolutely nothing to do with how well written it is (or isn't) nor does it say anything about the story itself. Instead, it says a lot about my real life and how I tend to get sidetracked a great deal.

The characters in this book are sad searchers, but what they are searching for never comes off as trite or monotonous. At first, I thought Charlie's desire to know his father was cliche and that I'd soon find myself bored to tears, but I must say
Scott Williams
Apr 11, 2015 Scott Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Timothy Findley! I love books about Toronto! Re-reading Findley is always like coming home. It's comforting.

I have always found reading Findley is so effortless that I have to really make an effort to read in short bursts to extend the experience. His voice is so similar to my own that it's almost like the words just float from the page, through my fingertips and into my brain.

Findley is one of my top five favorite writers and it saddens me that he is gone. However, the few works he left
Mar 30, 2014 Michelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, school
I. Hated. This. Book.

I know plenty of people who said that they liked it, that it was really good "for an English class" and the like. However, I constantly read through it completely baffled at why this was.

The characters are hardly likable - Ede's decisions and what she does to Lily are remarkable. The plot plods on, and the narrative is hardly something that was absolutely amazing. In fact, I found the book to be something that I probably would have given up on long before I got as far as I
Kris - My Novelesque Life

""Narrated by Charlie Kilworth, whose birth is an echo of his mother's own illegitimate beginnings, The Piano Man's Daughter is the lyrical, multilayered tale of Charlie's mother, Lily, his grandmother Ede, and their family. Lily is a woman pursued by her own demons, "making off with the matches just when the fires caught hold," "a beautiful, mad genius, first introduced to us singing in her mother's belly." It is also the tale of people who dream in songs, two Irish immigrant families
Jun 06, 2013 Ricki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well-constructed weave of plots, prose that flows with finesse--it's easy to see why this became a classic taught in school. However, for me it was just too long. It was great while I was getting to know the characters well, the slow reveal of their backgrounds and motives, but once all that was in the open there was still too much book left ahead, and I got bored. The section with (view spoiler) seemed unnecessarily gruesome and cruel, ...more
Mar 15, 2016 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I picked up this book at a thrift store to have something to read on my beach vacation that wasn't a big investment in case the book fell in the ocean or got lost or something. The back description seemed interesting enough and it's Canadian, so I thought I'd give it a try. The story follows a man trying to sort out the life story of his mother Lily who has mental illness. I enjoyed the beginning which started with his grandmother Ede in rural Ontario in the late 1800s. I love a story set in the ...more
Mar 02, 2016 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was chosen because it sounded very interesting to me. As I was reading, I found myself reading several chapters at once since they were so short and continued from the one before. I liked some characters and didn't like others. Just read the book and you'll understand. Another thing that I liked was that it was set in Toronto, where I live. It felt weird reading names of streets in a book like this. Although at some parts the wording was hard to understand.
Jul 21, 2015 Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-fiction
This is very much one of Findley's best -- a densely layered consideration of character and history. After the death of his mother, Lily, Charlie Kilworth goes through a suitcase filled with her keepsakes and, drawing equally on his memories, reconstructs the story of her life, her descent into madness and the mystery of his parentage. As much a journey of self-discovery as the quest to understand the mother who loved, tormented and confounded him, the novel is Charlie's attempt to find the answ ...more
I love family sagas, and it's usually because they are so character driven that I grow to completely love and empathize with them. This story was no exception. The main character is Lily Kilworth, a woman suffering from epilepsy and mental illness. Her son Charlie tells her life story after her death, as gleaned from diary entries, conversations with Lily and those close to her. Lily is a brilliant character, heart-breaking yet strong, caring for animals and people considered to be on the fringe ...more
Jul 19, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and there is a lot to enjoy. I appreciated Findley's treatment of mental illness and "madness", Lily is a lovely/tragic character. And I was engrossed in the descriptions of Toronto - I loved thinking about what this city was like over a century ago.
I'll return to Findley again sometime in the future.
Jan 06, 2010 Mollie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read. It felt a bit convoluted at first but after the first few chapters it cleared for me. It was an interesting look into the mind and family of a mentally ill woman who also suffered from epilepsy. It made me want to read more from the person suffering seizures. Can they really feel them coming on? Do they have a certain amount of awareness during - even an unreal awareness?

The setting was interesting the telling was unique and the story was moderately captivating.

I l
Brianna Lawcock
Nov 03, 2014 Brianna Lawcock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Timothy Findley. I first found Pilgrim and fell in love with that book, and proceeded to pick up any other book of his I could find. This is one of my favorites.

A story told in the view of the grandson as he learned about his history; this is the story of three generations, and the secrets they kept, the people who passed through their lives, and how he came to be who he was. I had no idea that this book would take such a hold on me, and even now, I find myself thinking of the characters
A beautiful, heartbreaking book. I love Lily, she has such courage in the face of adversity - the misunderstanding of her mental condition, the people who fear her, who shun her and who take advantage of her. Her son, the narrator, is honest and paints a beautiful picture of a woman he himself barely understood. I am re-reading it right now and remember all the reasons I loved it in the first place. Timothy Findley needless to say is a wonderful story-teller, I love the various voices and writin ...more
Olga Zuyderhoff
Apr 08, 2015 Olga Zuyderhoff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book, Timothy Findley does it again with such attention to descriptions and detail. Loved it!
Mar 19, 2014 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unique and sad. Heart-breaking how Lily was treated by her step-father. Colourful in odd ways.
Nicole Yovanoff
I moved, so I had lost the book for a while. Then when I found it, I was reluctant to restart it since it seemed a little slow. I was right.

If you can get past the first 100 pages the read gets better, but it meanders a lot and not too much of interest. I didn't care a great deal about the characters and the plot was very weak.

At times I really got into it, but then it fell back into the slow pace bland story line.

As a person who lives in Toronto, it was nice that it as set there and I enjoyed
Sep 06, 2009 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 3rd Findley book I've read and each one is entirely different from the other. This book is so well written as it deals with mental illness within a family. Some individuals are inclined to want to hide the fact that a family member suffers from the odd and embarrasing behaviour and others seek to support and love these people. The narrator is the son of the woman who was having seisures and irratic behaviour. He spent many years searching for clues to the identiy of his father, becau ...more
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Timothy Irving Frederick Findley was a Canadian novelist and playwright. He was also informally known by the nickname Tiff or Tiffy, an acronym of his initials.

One of three sons, Findley was born in Toronto, Ontario, to Allan Gilmour Findley, a stockbroker, and his wife, the former Margaret Maude Bull. His paternal grandfather was president of Massey-Harris, the farm-machinery company. He was rais
More about Timothy Findley...

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“As for the myths, take anyone's life and deny that most of it is deliberate self-delusion - an aggrandizement - a mixture of lies and truth, of what was wanted and what was had, producing the necessary justification for having been granted life in the first place. I was struck like a match, Lily wrote. I had no option but to burn.
You can put a period after that. Lily did. It was the story of her life.”
“Ede had been pregnant not quite the full term: eight months, two weeks, four days. She had lapsed into an extended silence - partly because she was still in mourning - still enraged and afraid of speech. And partly, too, because the child itself had taken up dreaming in her belly - dreaming and, Ede was certain, singing. Not singing songs a person knew, of course. Nothing Ede could recognize. But songs for certain. Music - with a tune to it. Evocative. A song about self. A song about place. As if a bird had sung it, sitting in a tree at the edge of a field. Or high in the air above a field. A hovering song. Of recognition.” 2 likes
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