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For the Love of Reading

The Piano Man's Daughter read in March 2010


Our selection this month was the book "The Piano Man's Daughter (1995), by Timothy Findlay. (1930-2002.) this book was a finalist for The Giller Prize. The central characters in this novel are Lilly Kilworth and her son, Charlie. Mr. Findlay base's the character of Lilly on his aunt.

This story begins in 1939 when Charlie visits her mother the day before she dies. It is believed that she sets a fire that breaks out at the asylum where she has been living for a number of years. "This is not a safe place"..."People like me Charlie '...."I guess we are not safe anywhere. Not in this world."(pg. 485) Charlie takes the reader on a poignant tale that examines the effect on a family dealing with issues of mental illness, paternity and loss. Other themes that emerged throughout this novel were: fire, class system, and the importance that photographs and music had on these characters. The result is a book that pieces together the threads by which a family is linked together. "His mother's madness was both a gift and a curse". The symptoms of mental defect were evident at an early age. Throughout this novel one may wonder if it was schizophrenia; a form of autism? Her mother and stepfather had problems of their own and were ill equipped to handle "Lily ". Her son was mature and placed into situations that he handled well from an early age.

Our discussion of this book was very spirited, indeed. For a few of us this was a 2nd reading of the work and it is admired for, among other things: the language and style of writing. This book is insightful; thoughtful and does examine mental illness in a provocative and emotive way. It is sad and the story is full of turmoil. Lilly demonstrates her strength despite serious challenges. Her moments of contentment are demonstrated by the various adventures that she has, her love of music and dance, her travelling with her friends from school. The criticisms of this book mentioned by our members were the ideas that there were too many characters, and coincidences. The rating for this novel was a vote of 4 from each member. This unanimous ranking has never happened prior to now.

Timothy Findlay nicknamed T.I.F.F. (an acronym of his initials), grew up in the Rosedale in Toronto, Ontario, and his world of privilege included the activities of the arts; dancing and acting at Stratford Ontario in the 1950's . His own life was not without challenge; alcoholism and homosexuality . He was married briefly and this union was annulled. He was comfortable with his sexual orientation and enjoyed a 40 year relationship with fellow Canadian writer, actor and filmmaker William whitehead. They lived at Stone Orchard and upon T.I.F.F.'S death the property was sold to Canadian dancer, Rex Harrington.

In conclusion, this acclaimed novelist was one of Canada's famous writers. In his collection of novel's plays and short stories he was attracted to exploring the darker sides of the human condition; his character's feelings and emotions around intense themes, known as a 'Gothic Genre'. Throughout his extensive career, several novels, plays, works of non-fiction, short stories and a novella. Mr. Findlay was reward two times with the Governor General's for his fiction "The Wars" (1997) and the play 'Elizabeth Rex' (2000). Other honours for this writer include an, Officer of the Order of Canada, Chevalier de l'Ordore des Arts et des Lettres.

Our selection for April 2010, is Fault Lines(2006) Author, Nancy Huston.

Candice D. Renfrew, ON.


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