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The Piano Tuner

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  10,599 ratings  ·  1,364 reviews
In 1886 a shy, middle-aged piano tuner named Edgar Drake receives an unusual commission from the British War Office: to travel to the remote jungles of northeast Burma and there repair a rare piano belonging to an eccentric army surgeon who has proven mysteriously indispensable to the imperial design. From this irresistible beginning, The Piano Tuner launches its protagoni ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 317 pages
Published September 17th 2002 by Knopf (first published 2002)
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Krystl I didn't find any issue with verb tenses, although having speech by different people, going back and forwards, within the same paragraph was a tad…moreI didn't find any issue with verb tenses, although having speech by different people, going back and forwards, within the same paragraph was a tad trifling. My main grammatical issue though was that of putting 2 distinct sentences together with a comma instead of a semi-colon or full stop. Even a dash would have been an improvement!(less)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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Aug 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I must begin this review with a caveat: I cannot write about The Piano Tuner in an unbiased fashion, because I love it more than words can describe. I have read it at least 3 times, and each time I am completely drawn in to the world of Edgar Drake, and 19th century colonial Burma. If I were forced to choose a favorite book, this would be one of the contenders. No novel before or since has spoken to me quite as much as this one has.

The Piano Tuner is the the story of Edgar Drake, a L
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was going through a box of books that a friend was giving away, and I came across this novel. I was attracted by the title, so I took it home to read.

The pros: There is a bit of history on the technical aspects of the development of piano-making that I found fascinating, and I enjoyed the details about the actual process of repairing and tuning a piano, though anyone not interested in pianos would probably skip that, much like I did most of the boring Burmese history. Also, there are some bea
I WILL AVOID SPOILERS! My review is less about plot than what happens to my head and my emotions when I read this book.

Finished: Nope I was wrong about how it would end. My guesses were not exactly right and the difference was very important! The end has a surprising twist. As you know this book had wonderful writing. Good story and good ending. This book has just about everything a book can have, but not much humor. Somehow I didn't miss it, maybe b/c rather than being a grim tale,t
Jul 02, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I was shocked by how poorly written this book was. Maybe I'm missing something. I admit that I abandoned it somewhere just past the halfway point, but it was a bit like leaving a baseball game when a team is up 15 to nil. There wasn't a lot of chance for redemption here. This book read to me exactly like a puppet show, where each voice, and each emotion was just a undisguised projection of the voice of the author. Its as if the characters open their mouths and the exact same voice comes out of e ...more
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that you begin hopefully and end up putting down again and again. It has so much going for it--wow, the author graduated from Harvard and traveled in Burma studying malaria and as of the print date he is still just a medical student! How accomplished! This must be really good, right?

Well, I do give Mason credit for being obviously well-read and a very very good writer, but there are so many elements here that drive a reader insane. First and foremost, his w
Oct 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who appreciates beauty - you need to be calm to read this book.
Recommended to Fiona by: my dad
Where can I start?

Reading The Piano Tuner is more like closing your eyes and allowing a beautiful vision to play out in front of your eyes. You see, hear, feel, smell and taste the Burmese countryside through the rather romantic and simplistic view of Edgar Drake - an English piano tuner.

Reading The Piano Tuner is like being carried gently down a river.

The writing is picturesque - but also dreamlike and you get the feeling that everything around you is not quite real - l
Robert Blumenthal
This novel was part adventure story (ala Joseph Conrad) part anti-imperialist and part anti-war, pro music as a path to peace. It deals with imperialist Britain and particularly in Burma in the late 1800s. A middle-aged piano tuner is given a most unusual request. A somewhat eccentric surgeon/military officer has had an Erard grand piano delivered to a somewhat remote outpost in Burma. It is badly in need of tuning and some repair, and though cautious, the tuner is also very intrigued and accept ...more
Ellen R
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There was a lot about this book that I didn't like. In any other book, these details would have caused me to despise the writing, badmouthing it to anyone who'd listen. The author seemed to ignore the fact that quotation marks existed for half the book, and then used them perfectly for the other half. There was probably a reason for this, he was probably making a point about something, but I didn't get it. Some of the sentences seemed to run on forever, one taking up a page and a half. I get why ...more
Dedication: For my grandmother, Halina

"Brothers," I said, "o you who have crossed
a hundred thousand dangers, reach the west
to this brief waking time that is left
unto your senses, you must not deny
experience of that which lies beyond
the sun, and all the world that is unpeopled."

Dante, 'Inferno. canto XXVI

Music, to create harmony, must investigate discord.



Opening: In the fleeting seconds of final memory, the image that will become Burma is the sun and a woman's parasol.

The back story of British interests in Burma is laid out from page one, within a letter from Col. Fitzgerald of the Burma and East India DivisioXXVI
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
I'm not yet sure about how I felt about reading this book. At the beginning it was a hard work, maybe because of my stressful life, maybe because of some characteristics of the book; I'll probably never know.

In this Daniel Mason's book, we are presented to Edgar Drake, a piano tuner whose life was a captive of routine and a man who have never find something he never knows he was looking for. The opportunity to learn about it comes with a strange request, he must travel to Asia to tune a piano.<
Mar 27, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is rare that I stop reading a book before the end. Usually I will read the whole thing and then come to the conclusion that it was a bad book, didn't need to read the book, etc.

I didn't need that long for this one. I have never taken so long to read 100 pages in my entire life. There is just no way that I can recommend this to someone, sorry. It reads like one of those books we hated in high school, and plods along like some 17th century English aristocrat who had to write somethi
Friederike Knabe
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia
A piano tuner with a speciality for handling French Erard pianos leaves his beloved wife and quiet, comfortable life in London to embark on a journey of discovery into the furthest corner of Burma. He is called upon to repair the Erard piano belonging to the eccentric physician, Surgeon-Major Anthory Carroll, residing in a jungle outpost near the Siam (now Thai) border. Set in the late eighteen hundreds, during the Third Anglo Burmese War, the journey across oceans and continents is in itself an ...more
The readers of Daniel Mason’s The Piano Tuner generally fall into two categories: Those who love it with a passion, finding it perfect, and those who believed it to be unnecessarily long and uninteresting at times, but have to admit that Mason’s use of language had an undeniably immersive, transporting quality. I fall into this latter category.
Reading this book educated me in so many areas, including botany, medicine, music appreciation, history, war, and politics. It took me to the fores
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a pianist, I especially enjoyed this book. I loved the references to various preludes by Bach and the Haydn Sonata Op 50 in D Major (Youtube it!). When I finished the book, I found my WTC (Well-Tempered Clavier) and played Bach's Prelude #4, referenced on p. 248 in the novel. I think I will always remember it. I was a little disappointed in the ending, although, it added to the mysteriousness of the story and the haunting qualities throughout (Please don't let my disappointment keep you fr ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having read this author's most recent book I had determined to go back to his first novel from 2002. This is a brilliantly conceived and executed story of Burma like none other I have read.

Briefly, in late 1880's, a London piano tuner is tapped by British military to make the journey to a remote location in Burma to tune a piano for a particularly demanding British doctor who maintains the peaceful cooperation of the population with British rule. The result of his decision to comply takes this
May 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who aren't passive readers expecting everyhing to be explained.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This is, indeed, a mesmerizing tale. I enjoyed it--could hardly put it down because it was so unusual, and I wondered where it would go. Late in the book there are delirious, hallucinatory scenes that are amazing. I am glad I read this book, admire the author tremendously, and wonder who else might like it. I think it helps to know a bit about piano music. I suspect it's this tale that nudged me to order some new sheet music and set a goal of playing my long-dormant piano this winter. Unusual st ...more
Jan 12, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I usually don't give up, also on books that I don't like at all, but today I do give up. The funny thing is that I don't even dislike The Piano Tuner that much, actually not at all. I like the main character (kudos to Mason to picture the boring job of piano tuning as a very interesting one), I like pianos, I like travelling and adventure (East not being exactly my favourite destination, but what the heck, as long as you're moving that's usually good enough for me to go there). And yet, I cannot ...more
Apr 14, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what it was but I thought this book was so boring. It felt like someone had gone on an interesting trip and tried to to put everything they saw and learned down on paper, throw in a couple of characters and call it a novel. I thought none of the characters were compelling and I'm shocked I actually finished it, even if it was mostly skimming the last 150 pages.

I have to say it's refreshing to really dislike something every once in awhile.
This was an interesting premise - a fairly staid piano tuner (Edgar Drake) is sent to Burma in 1886 to tune a piano belonging to a mysterious but important chap who is helping to protect British military interests. A bit of "Apocalypse Now" or "Lawrence of Arabia" with the mysterious Major Carroll working with the local tribes to try to establish some sort of peace settlement (or is he?).
The first half of the book describes Drake's journey to the remote Burmese outpost. IN the secong half
I have to give Daniel Mason credit -- if memory serves me right, he's a medical student who decided to write a novel after traveling through Southeast Asia -- a true modern-day Renaissance man. I found the subject matter really interesting, almost seducing -- the romantic idea of someone who lives a simple life in London in the early 20th century, who gets to go on an exotic adventure in colonial Britain to repair a piano. But without giving anything away, I found the ending really underwhelming ...more
Ye Lin Aung
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, read-2015
If you care to read the description of the book, I am pretty sure you'll be very eager to read.

The story is based in our own country, Myanmar.
It's very lovely to read about our beautiful (yes, it's still beautiful) country and people, as told by someone else.
The storyline is very good, engaging and left me in awe.
Thanks Arkar Min Aung for recommending it too. It's a helluva good one.

(If anyone would like to have the ebook (epub format), I'd email to you and just left a commen
Steven Z.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine you are an unassuming piano tuner living in London. You are bespectacled, self-effacing and a master of your craft, particularly when it comes to a special type of piano. Your wife Katherine thinks the world of your talent and you have a special relationship. All seems well, then you are summoned to the British War Office in 1886 and you are told about a strange request from a Surgeon-Major who is stationed in the eastern area of Burma. This scenario forms the basis of Daniel Mason’s exc ...more
In two words: horrendously tedious.

Mason has no idea how to create compelling characters or provide information in a non-clumsy way. He seriously provides a complete "briefing" on the history of Burma in the story (the character is given this document by the army). If I wanted that, I would read a history book (or go on Wikipedia). The point of historical fiction is to give readers a sense of place/history by bringing the past ALIVE through characters' interactions, not insert several pages of
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Who Love Modernist Literary Fiction--with an emphasis on Modernist
I love strong historical fiction, especially about far away places, so I thought this novel set in the Victorian Age about an Englishman who travels to colonial Burma would be just the thing I'd love, but this was one story that just wasn't my cuppa. It has gotten rave reviews, including from some friends, and I tried, but I have style issues that stood between the story and me. I could see from the beginning that Mason can write shapely, lyrical prose, but his title character Edgar Drake didn't ...more
Apr 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, man! It's been awhile since I read a truly great adventure story (since Gil Adamson's 'The Outlander', actually) and this pulled me in immediately. I just finished it last night and I have that feeling where I don't want to start another book just yet; this story is still sinking in for me. I need to give it a few days to settle. That's just good book manners, right?

Anyway... the book follows a middle-aged British piano tuner named Edward on his summoned tuning job to the wild an
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. I read it on a recommendation from my law school, that it was about the legal profession, which, it isn't, but it is still a wonderful exploration of the range of human emotion and feelings I think many humans get over their lifetime.

Edgar Drake is a complex, interesting and a character that one can easily relate to. I believe, so many of us as humans at some point or another wonder if there is more in the world that our mini-universes, which I think is exactly wha
Wayne Shields
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This beautifully written book bring you face to face with local characters in Burma at the time of the British takeover in the 1880s. Daniel Mason, the author, was a medical student during the time he wrote this novel, and his clear approach to writing reflects his medical training. At the same time there is a real spirit of adventure and a direct approach to ugliness and suffering. I read this book before visiting Myanmar this Winter and it gave me a terrific sense of the country and its histor ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lee, Virginie, Hayes, Bettie, Hannahr, Barb
Recommended to Laura by: Chrissie
Just arrived from China through BM.

The story of Edgar Drake, a piano tuner, and Antony Carroll who owns a rare Erard piano. Edgar travels to the jungles of Burma in order to tune it. Edgar's life won't be the same afterwards....
I am so torn over this book. It sits in two halves so it seems reasonable to both love and hate it. The first half of the text is as slow as the 19th century trip to Burma, I can only guess that is what the author was trying to achieve. I was so close to giving up on it because of its pace, or lack thereof. The second half however is captivating and absolutely your reward. The imagery is excellent and the political dilemmas really thought provoking.
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Daniel Mason is the author of The Piano Tuner (2002), A Far Country (2007), and The Winter Soldier (2018); A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth, will be published in 2020. His writing has been translated into 28 languages, adapted for opera and stage and shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Northern California Book Award. His short stories and essays have appeared in Harp ...more
“The conversations rests uneasily; one doesn't expect good-byes to be burdened by such trivialities. This is not how it is in the books, he thinks, or in the theater, and he feels the need to speak of mission, of duty, of love. They reach home and close the door and he doesn't drop her hand. Where speech fails, touch compensates.” 5 likes
“White. Like a clean piece of paper, like uncarved ivory, all is white when the story begins.” 2 likes
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