Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 2 June 2014

Author Guest Post - Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn - The Piano Player's Son - Blog Tour

Today I am pleased to feature a guest post from Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, author of The Piano Player's Son.

The Importance of Settings in Novels by Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

There's a tendency in modern fiction to neglect setting for fear of boring the reader. Writers in the past had no such worries. We've only got to think of Hardy's descriptions of Dorset, the wild moors of Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights', and the London that Dickens evoked. But the argument that today's readers are not interested in descriptions of place and will either skip those bits – or worse abandon the book altogether – is enough to frighten writers off.

But I think this is a mistake. Characters need to be rooted in place, as 'real' people are. Whether we're by the sea, on a mountain peak, in a kitchen, in an operating theatre, in a hot place, a cold place, a prison, at an airport, in conflict with or at home in our setting, our moods will be different. Different things will happen to us. We will meet different people. We will be different people. Without a strong sense of place, it's hard for a writer to fully realise character, and to achieve suspense and excitement.

So, how have I used setting in my novel ‘The Piano Player’s Son’? There are four main places in the novel, all ones I know and love. I was brought up in north London, and I decided to make the family home in Highgate. I went back to the area and identified the house where they lived. Not sure what the people who really lived there felt when I started taking photos of their house!

Some years ago, I spent time in Penzance and Northumberland and think they are both wonderful places, so I decided I wanted to make each ‘home’ for two of my characters – the eldest son, Rick, lives in a beautiful house in Rothbury, and the youngest, George, runs an art school in Penzance. Again, I went back to each area,‘found’ the houses where they live and took photos. Obviously I had to make up the insides! At a book group I visited recently, I was delighted when several people said they ‘knew’ the house in Rothbury as well as if they’d been there.

However, perhaps my favourite setting in the novel is Ischia, an island in the Bay of Naples, Italy, known for its health-giving hot springs, but often overshadowed by its more famous neighbour Capri. I've spent several holidays there, and it didn't take me long to decide one of my characters in 'The Piano Player's Son' would live there.

The character is Grace, one of Henry's four grown-up children. At the beginning of the novel, Henry dies, and gradually secrets emerge which overturn the family's view of the past and their parents' relationship. Grace wasn't there when her father died - she hadn't made it back from Italy in time - and she struggles to cope with this, especially when she returns to Ischia, where she and her Italian husband run a ristorante.

The ristorante looks out over the sea towards Castello d'Aragonese, a dramatic and compelling place with a rich history which Grace is fascinated by. This is almost the view of the castle from the ristorante.



The following extract from 'The Piano Player's Son' describes the morning after Grace's return from England where her father's funeral took place:

Chapter Ten

When Grace woke, the shutters were ajar and a sliver of light slanted across the room. She stretched, easing her limbs into the cool reaches of the bed. There was no sign of Franco.

She turned on her back and listened. The ristorante was gearing up for another day. The familiar sounds calmed her, like waves breaking on shingle. She slipped from the bed and crossed to the window. She pulled back one of the shutters. The sun was shining and the light glinting off the sea was sharp and clear. It was a shock after the leaden skies of England. She drew a cardigan over her flimsy nightdress and stepped out onto the balcony.

Her eyes sought Sant'Anna's rocks, sturdy tuffs rising steeply out of the sea. On summer mornings, while it was still quiet, she liked to scramble down the steep path to the beach and swim across to the rocks. Franco had attached a rope to one of them so that she could haul herself up. She'd found a spot, where the sea had washed the rock smooth. She could sit in it, almost like an armchair.

She lifted her gaze from the rocks to the castello, her favourite place on the whole island. Like something from a fairytale, it stood on its cone of volcanic lava, mysterious and compelling. Grace had lost count of the number of times she had crossed the bridge and climbed up to the remains of the castle cathedral, where in the sixteenth century the poet, Vittoria Colonna's wedding was celebrated. She always took her copy of Vittoria's poetry with her and read in the shadows of the high vaulted arches. To her it was the most romantic place in the world, but Franco scoffed at her obsession with that old ruin.

Thank you, Lindsay, for the opportunity to talk about ‘The Piano Player’s Son’, and in particular the settings in the novel. I’ve really enjoyed remembering all those lovely places, and it’s made me want to return to each of them as soon as possible!

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn


  1. Fantastic post, I really enjoyed the extract you shared. Thank you.

  2. What an interesting backstory to the settings - one of the many string features that I loved in The Piano Player's Son. So pleased to see what the island really looks like - that's the one setting in the book that I've never visited. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Superb post in so many ways.

    I could not agree more at the importance of settings. Any writer who neglects them due to a misconception about popular opinion would be a writer that I would want to avoid.

  4. An interesting article, and a much-neglected topic, I think. Thank you, Lindsay...and Lindsay!

  5. Hi Lindsay and Lindsay! Great post, really interesting. I find the use of settings fascinating - in some novels the setting is almost a character in its own right. I remember this from The Piano Player's Son, and like Debbie was interested to see what it looks like in 'real life'. Looking forward to your next stop, Jo

  6. Apologies for typo - I was replying on my phone in a car park! That should have course been STRONG not STRING in my comment earlier - just in case anyone thinks I've talking about piano strings!!

  7. Setting is vital. It needs to be woven into the narrative to draw the reader in so much that she/he will forget anything or anywhere else. A good reminder, Lindays!

  8. Sorry to appear as anonymous, which I'm definitely not(!), but I couldn't get Blogger to accept the real me!
    Just wanted to thank everyone for the lovely comments, and for taking the time to write. I'm pleased you enjoyed the post, and, like me, think setting is important.
    Thank you, again, Lindsay, for having me on your blogspot for the first day of my blog tour - you've got me off to a great start!
    Lindsay (Stanberry-Flynn)

  9. Another Lindsay would like to say that she enjoyed this post - I think settings can really enhance the characters and plot.

  10. Nautical touch by Trevor Abramson and David Michael Miller

    As successful furniture shop in Cambodia construction materials informed, architect Trevor Abramson and interior designer David Michael Miller collaborated on the featured house’s designed project.
    Since the house located alongside the beach, maritime theme is the obvious solution for the style. "They wanted a beach feel – a design that would acknowledge the oceanfront location," Abramson said. "To this end, there are many nautical references, both inside and out."
    "I wanted to design a building that would be durable. Concrete not only provides durability, its color and texture are also appropriate to the oceanfront setting," stated Abramson.
    "To ensure the interior wasn't all hard-edged, we specified wire-brushed, whiteoak flooring, which adds a natural, beachy look."
    "To balance the strength and simplicity of the architecture, we chose solid furniture items. Much of the built-in furniture incorporates concrete countertops, which are a further link with the structure of the house and the location."


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. It's great reading your comments and I really appreciate them :)