The next installment of “Short Books for Busy Readers” is here!
The Pianist in the Dark
by Michéle Halberstadt
Maria Theresia, the only child of the Austrian Imperial Secretary Joseph von Paradis, is a beautiful, intelligent and talented piano virtuoso. Her life contains only one imperfection: she has been blind since age three. She doesn’t mind this, though . . . or rather, she wouldn’t mind it if her determined father would stop forcing her to undergo painful and useless treatments. Despite his promise to stop, Joseph can’t help but grasp at one last hope: Franz Mesmer. Though his techniques are questionable, Mesmer (father of the forerunner of hypnotism) believes he can help and is thrilled to treat such a high profile patient.
Populated with real historical characters, this novel explores what might have happened if Franz Mesmer had had a romance with Maria Theresia when he attempted to cure her in 1777 when she was 17, as well as exploring the nature of vision (does seeing something necessarily make it easier for us to discern the truth about it?) and the value of sight. For most of us, losing our sight would be a tragedy that we’d do almost anything to avoid. For Maria Theresia, however, sight is inextricably linked to problems and distractions, and she’s not sure that it’s worth the cost.
I didn’t care for the shift in perspective that the author employed for the last 20 pages or so, but overall the author’s writing style was appealing, pulling the reader into Maria Theresia’s world through an understanding of what is important to her and what has no meaning. Also, despite this being a translation from French, the word choice was excellent and seemed effortless.