The Piano Maker

A novel by Kurt Palka

Kurt Palka

Helene Giroux arrives alone in St. Homais on a winter day. She wears good city clothes and drives an elegant car, and everything she owns is in a small trunk in the back seat. In the local church she finds a fine old piano, a Molnar, and she knows just how fine it is, for her family had manufactured these pianos before the Great War. Then her mother's death and war forces her to abandon her former life. 

The story moves back and forth in time as Helene, settling into a simple life, playing the piano for church choir, recalls the extraordinary events that brought her to this place. They include the early loss of her soldier husband and the reappearance of an old suitor who rescues her and her daughter, when she is most desperate; the journeys that very few women of her time could even imagine, into the forests of Indochina in search of ancient treasures and finally, and fatefully, to the Canadian north. When the town policeman confronts her, past and present suddenly converge and she must face an episode that she had thought had been left behind forever. (From McClelland & Stewart

Excerpt | Author interview

From the book

On the last stretch through the coastal forest, the trees stood so close together that hardly any light showed between them. In places they overarched the road like a tunnel, tall evergreens and a few hardwoods, bare this time of year. Nearer to the French Shore the trees then thinned, and eventually they opened up to a fantastic vista to her right, with ocean spray like a billowing fog full of rainbows.

The first village she came to was called Bonne Marie. Halfway through it a dog saw the car, and it barked and came running alongside. She slowed and swerved to avoid it, and not far away a man looked up from the boat hull he was scraping. He called to the dog and immediately it obeyed and stopped. In the mirror she saw it standing in the road, lifting its nose.

From The Piano Maker by Kurt Palka ©2015. Published by McClelland & Stewart.

Author interview

Author Kurt Palka on his latest novel and the enigmatic woman at the centre of the story.