Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Upright Piano Player” as Want to Read:
The Upright Piano Player
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Upright Piano Player

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  780 Ratings  ·  204 Reviews
Henry Cage seems to have it all: a successful career, money, a beautiful home, and a reputation for being a just and principled man. But public virtues can conceal private failings, and as Henry faces retirement, his well-ordered life begins to unravel. His ex-wife is ill, his relationship with his son is strained to the point of estrangement, and on the eve of the new mil ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Before I deconstruct the book, I want to make it clear that I could not put it down. In a voyeuristic manner, I kept reading and reading until the very end. When the end arrived, I was surprised it was over. The way the book begins is gut-wrenching and disturbing as Henry is attending his grandson's funeral. The grandson he loved more than his own life and whose life ended on his watch. The details of the death are revealed and they are awful. That was 2004.

The story begins in 1999 as Henry ends
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeanette by: Bob
This book is proof positive that people who write good ad copy don't necessarily make good novelists. It took me weeks to get through it, and it's only 264 pages. The entire book feels like an exercise in misdirection. Abbott's writing zings around like a fart in a skillet and ultimately leads nowhere.

I now have the answers to the questions I posed below prior to reading the book. #1: It doesn't matter, because the title has nothing to do with the content of the book. #2: If anything, it should
Oct 30, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gosh. I just did not like this book, but true to form, read every last daggone page. And in the end, after the last page, I think I said out loud, "Wait, what?". Nothing about a piano, did not like the main character, sub-plots went nowhere, other characters behaving unrealistically, and the purpose / message of the book was lost on me. A friend recommended this book to me. I need to find her and ask why! Not a book for me and not one I would recommend to others. (I know it shouldn’t bother me t ...more
Heather Mize
Aug 18, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Deb Carpenter
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Upright Piano Player

What does a title reveal about the contents of the book? What direct or subliminal message does it give? I asked myself these questions as I read “The Upright Piano Player” by David Abbott. Even though music plays a role throughout the novel, the upright piano is mentioned only once or twice, a hold from the narrator’s childhood.

As I pondered more, I noticed the title’s interesting word play. Is the player of the piano an upright character? Does the pianist play an uprig
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Abbott starts his mesmerizing and haunting debut book, The Upright Piano Player, with a quote from Nietzsche: “The consequences of our actions take hold of us, quite indifferent to our claims that meanwhile we have improved.”

It’s an apt quote because indeed, actions have consequences in the case of his protagonist, Henry Cage. Henry is, indeed, a caged man – uptight, disconnected, and alienated. Throughout his life, he has amassed the trappings of success: a sterling career, a spirited and
Kasey Jueds
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kasey by: Books on the Nightstand
Shelves: fiction
I was all set to adore this book, largely because it was recommended so highly by Books on the Nightstand, and I think they are Awesome. So the fact that I had very mixed feelings about The Upright Piano Player shouldn't be taken as criticism of BOTNS. But I did have mixed feelings: some things about the book seemed unusually terrific to me, and some other things unusually flawed. On the plus side: I literally didn't want to stop reading. There's a wonderfully creepy menacing feeling, which remi ...more
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story was a bit misleading: we open with a grandfather's mourning the death of his grandson (a death that was, in a tragic tangential way, his fault) in 2004. We then flash back to 1999, where we meet Henry at his retirement - not quite at a time of his choosing, but not quite unwelcome.

Over the next year we see Henry's quiet life become disrupted. An "upright" guy, one who doesn't want to share his personal life with the public, his marriage disintegrates because not only does his wife ha
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
There are very many glowing reviews of this book so I was very excited to receive from Library Thing. In the first few pages, I was disenchanted by the third person being used so much it seems very difficult for me to get wrapped up by a book that uses it so much. It just feels like too much distance between me and the main character to be interested in him.

This is just me, you may me be engrossed from the first page. Secondly there is gruesome accident in which a little boy is killed. Ever sinc
Hmm.... What to say of this? Although a sad and terrible incident, I have no idea WHAT the point was of Part One. It had nothing to do whatsoever with the rest of the story which, by the way, takes place five years EARLIER. They shared the same old disillusioned man, but Abbott never wrapped the story around to join the two threads of time. Makes no sense to me. If I wanted to read the horrific telling of a young boy's death at the hands of a pointless accident and then have it followed by what ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, arc
A disappointing read. The author can write, and write well, but the story line was depressing and pointless. The whole book was filled with hopelessness. Just as soon as things might look up, it crashed.
The opening left an awful impression on me and the thing with the dog was uncalled for. Not that people don't do horrid acts but there seemed to be no redemption or hope.
I could never feel for Henry. What a loser.
I kept waiting for the piano player to play but all I got was a mournful refrain. If
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A familiar structure that would be played-out if it weren't for the details that are just unusual enough to keep you turning the pages.

I can understand why some people don't like this book, but I think it's captures the beauty and the darkness of life. A man finds his way back to his family after tragedy, which is beautiful, but no guarantee of immunity from more tragedy to come.
May 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Courtesy of Goodreads First Reads

I just finished this book a few minutes ago, and I'm still not sure what to think of it. Yes, other reviewers' comments about nihilism is correct. This is a story of pointlessness, of inevitability, and of sadness. Here we have a character who has been dealt so much hardship (and because of those nihilistic "random, meaningless events") that Abbott's message is nearly rammed down our throat. Pardon me if I say that I prefer to choose how much I am given.

Yes, the
The Short of It:

Quietly haunting and tinged with loneliness.

The Rest of It:

The books that I love are typically quiet books, in that the characters and storyline follow a rather plain, yet interesting path. Domesticity fascinates me. So for this reason I thought I would love The Upright Piano Player. Although parts of it were lovely and beautifully crafted, the narrative structure didn’t work for me.

The story is about Henry Cage. Forced into retirement by his own company, he doesn’t quite know w
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Just how much does a successful man's life change when he retires from the company that he's built? When Henry Cage's successful career and influence are gone, he becomes just another elderly man among many. David Abbott demonstrates the small ways in which Cage's life and luck has changed. The crush of the crowds on New Year's Eve leads to a random and vicious act of violence. I found myself sympathizing with Henry Cage as he finds himself uncomfortable in his new life - from his interaction wi ...more
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Does every lit novel have to open with tragic death? Yes, it seems so. And I’m getting a bit bored by that.

Death. Remorse. Incrimination. As I waded through the first chapters, I felt no real momentum. This novel is well written, but lacks anything to engage me. And while it’s possible I didn’t give it enough time, I stopped reading after about 60 pages. Mainly because I couldn’t see how the plot or characters or leaden ennui could possibly explore new territory.

The plot is too worn out for me t
Jun 23, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Henry Cage is prematurely retired, divorced, and estranged from his son (and doesn't meet his grandson until he's about 4). What's more, he's being stalked due to some random acts-- one violent on New Year's Eve, one of absent-minded staring at a woman in a cafe. A mystery/tragedy ensues.

An event of distastrous proportions starts off the book, and I was waiting for the novel to come up to that level of intensity; it never did for me. The mystery plotline propelled me to the finish, but wow: com
Nov 06, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want to be depressed
A depressing book. Domestic violence, a man killing a dog, and a child's death are just a few of the sad themes explored in this book. Others include cancer, murder, divorce, and assault. These themes are fine to explore, but with some uplifting elements or some happy parts too. The way this is written just focuses on a lot of negative issues.
Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
This review first appeared on my blog:

Nan A. Talese is quickly becoming one of my favorite imprints. The titles I've read have all been intelligent and searching. The Upright Piano Player is no exception.

We start out with a horrible tragedy and roll back through the life of Henry Cage, filled with slices of remembrances - his and others - good, bad, and indifferent. Set in England, this tale of a man who tries his best in life (with some successes as well
switterbug (Betsey)
It begins at the end, a narrative format that is apt and deeply seated in the story's nihilistic philosophy. It exemplifies the antithesis of the slogan "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty." The novel asserts that all of us are subject to random acts. Period. Of senselessness, violence, beauty, cruelty, and yes, also kindness. Beginning at the end is a way for the author to clarify the theme that we are not subject to fate or karma-- life is pointless, meaningless, without int ...more
Andreas Steppan
Schwer, etwas zu diesem Buch zu sagen. Denn bis jetzt ist mir schleierhaft, worauf der Autor eigentlich hinauswollte. Einigermaßen zusammenhanglos und ohne großen dramaturgischen Bogen erzählt er von allerlei Unbilden in den vorgerückten Jahren des Unternehmensberaters Henry Cage.
Zu Beginn des Buchs steht gleich der größte Schicksalsschlag, der tragische Tod des Enkels Hal unter der Aufsicht seines Opas. Es ist aber nicht so, dass sich von hier aus eine Geschichte entwickeln würde. Vielmehr fol
Feb 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fast-paced, clearly written, well constructed and with some convincing characters, this was a book to appreciate but not enjoy.

Henry's retirement is nowhere near as successful as his career had been and the de-skilling subtraction of purpose and focus in his new, empty life is what I found especially fascinating, even upsetting. Things started to go sour for him the day he left his company. And I identified with him so much that I am still shocked by his family's subterfuge in hiding even the b
Paul Secor
The protagonist of this novel is a man who is somewhat smug and who seems to think that he is in control of his life - I'm sure that many of us can identify with that if we're honest. His life falls apart, as the novel begins with his grandson's funeral and looks back from there. The Upright Piano Player is a quietly told good book that could have been better. Apart from the fact that Henry Cage is beset by woes that make him seem like a minor league Job - perhaps these are overdone - there is a ...more
Judy Bart
So not every book is a winner. This is not a bad read, but a bit confusing as the story jumps back and forward without warning and switches protagonists so I had to stop and start a chapter over again to figure out who the author was talking about. It is the tale of a retired, divorced, ex- marketing executive in the UK and the series of unfortunate and very disturbing events in his life. It begins with the death of his grandson that is somehow his fault, yet the story goes back in time and neve ...more
Mar 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an ARC and the review intrigued me. The premise is the endgame of a very successful man and how success is relative. The author begins the book with an horrific episode in Henry's life that just shows that his "sucessful" life is crumbling around him. The tale of Henry Cage is told without linear structure and changes characters and incidents without a hint. I did not find it a difficult read, but the author had me flipping back pages to help keep me with his stream of thought. Henry wa ...more
Nancy Martira
All the more disappointing because, at the outset of the book, you think you've stumbled upon the next Ian McEwan. Sadly, nothing here hangs together; it's difficult to follow the jumps forward and backward in time; minor characters are introduced and pursued for a chapter or two then dropped; and the writing jangles. There was some tension propelling the story forward, but the penultimate tragedy can never match up to the prologue. Although it feels like the necessary pieces are there somewhere ...more
Lisa Morris
The title didn't match anything about the story. It might have mentioned the main character played the piano, but I was disappointed in the story. The author starts out telling something tragic at the beginning and the rest of the book talks about the past in 'here and there' spots. The end doesn't even relate to the beginning. All I can say is, "What happened to the characters after that tragic event at the beginning. It was a contentful ending, but not relevant. I wasn't sure what the theme of ...more
B the BookAddict
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not a review; simply a comment...

I wanted to rate this novel higher but... about halfway through, my enjoyment wavered as did the story. I feel that Abbott could have made this longer and plumped out the whole novel. His sentences became choppy and unfortunately, for this reader, he doesn't tie the very first chapter back in at the end of the novel. I do not understand the inclusion of the character Maude: was it to show his encroaching age, well, the reader would already understand that - he's
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! I finished David Abbott's debut novel just before midnight on one snowbound evening. Reminiscent of Kate Atkinson, Ian McEwan, or Andre Dubus III, this tautly drawn narrative leaves the reader asking more questions than were answered within its pages. How much of life results from choices made and actions carried out, and how much is pure chance? How can I possibly wait until June to share this book with our Anderson's customers? (Thank you Laura Baratto for sharing your love of this little ...more
Jun 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the point of this book is about the randomness of life. However, I still feel like I do not grasp the author's full intention in writing this book and starting it off so terribly, finishing it somewhat cleanly, only to leave the reader knowing what will become of the protagonist's future. It's heartbreaking. And I think I don't "get it." Unless there's not much to get, which is the author's point.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Free Books, .99 &...: Giveaway - The Upright Piano Player 1 12 Mar 07, 2012 09:06AM  
  • Little Gods
  • True Things About Me
  • The Bee-Loud Glade
  • The Breaking of Eggs
  • Panorama
  • Taroko Gorge
  • Das war ich nicht
  • Liebe. Ein unordentliches Gefühl
  • The Afterparty
  • You Don't Love This Man
  • The Realm of Last Chances
  • Substitute Me
  • The Great Northern Express: A Writer's Journey Home
  • Dream Wheels
  • Engagiert Euch! Stéphane Hessel im Gespräch mit Gilles Vanderpooten
  • The Wilderness
  • Red Love: The Story of an East German Family
  • Luke And Jon
David Abbott (born ca. 1938) is a British advertising executive who founded Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.

Abbott started as a copywriter at Mather & Crowther and then at DDB, London. In 1966, he was sent to their New York office, then returned to London as a director.

In 1971, he founded French Gold Abbott. In 1978, he founded Abbott Mead Vickers (AMV), handling clients including Volvo, Sainsbury's,
More about David Abbott...

Share This Book

“Between a book's covers there may be passion, bile, mayhem, or murder, but in the quiet spaces where it awaits its fate (either acceptance of indifference) all is calm.” 4 likes
More quotes…