The Piano by Jane Campion

I first came across the film The Piano when my mum bought it randomly. Prior to buying the book, I hadn’t watched it but I decided to buy it anyway, on impulse, whilst in Statford-Upon-Avon for a measly £1.65. Not long after, I finally sat down and watched the film and found it to be nothing I had expected.

Ada McGrath is a single mother who has been mute since she was a child. Her sole form of true expression is through the beautiful piano, that belonged to her deceased mother, which gives her endless joy. She leaves her homeland of Scotland to meet her new husband in a Victorian New Zealand, being colonised by the Europeans. She and her daughter are deposited on a lifeless beach and left abandoned for a night with their belongings. When her husband eventually appears with a group of Maori people and a man called George Baines, a European settler that has adopted some of the Maori ways, both man and wife are distinctly disappointed with each other; he finds her muteness strange and he dislikes the fact her daughter, Flora, has to be her interpreter and when he refuses to bring her piano to her new home straight away, she feels understandably distressed but powerless.

Her new husband, Alistair, is a shy man and Ada makes little effort to befriend him but instead focuses on being reunited with her beloved piano. Unable to make her new husband understand her need for the instrument, she approaches George Baines and insists he returns her to the beach where her piano sits. When he hears her play, he falls in love with the music she creates, the piano and thus the woman creating the music. Baines makes a deal for the piano due to his attraction to Ada and what follows, is the development of a strange and forbidden relationship between mute Ada and coarse Baines.

The novel was written by the same woman who made the film, following the film and thus I was unsurprised to find it was basically the film in words. Scenes were described the same as they were in the film to the letter which I found a little dull. The book in itself is short and insubstantial without any real depth so it is hardly a literary masterpiece nor is it something I particularly enjoyed or would recommend. The plot is unusual and worth experiencing at least once but my advice is that if you want to experience this particular tale, either read the book or watch the film; one or the other – both doesn’t really work.

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