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The Piano Tuner

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A  New York Times  Notable Book
A  San Francisco Chronicle ,  San Jose Mercury News , and  Los Angeles Times  Best Book of the Year

“A gripping and resonant novel. . . . It immerses the reader in a distant world with startling immediacy and ardor. . . . Riveting.” —Michiko Kakutani,  The New York Times

In 1886 a shy, middle-aged piano tuner named Edgar Drake receives an unusual commission from the British War 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 readers into a world of seductive, vibrantly rendered characters, and enmeshes them in an unbreakable spell of storytelling.

312 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2002

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About the author

Daniel Mason

12 books455 followers
Daniel Mason is the author of The Piano Tuner (2002), A Far Country (2007), The Winter Soldier (2018) and A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth (2020). He is a recipient of the Joyce Carol Oates Prize and the Northern California Book Award and has been shortlisted for the Jaes Tait Black Memorial Prize. His writing has been translated into 28 languages, and adapted for opera and stage. His short stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Zoetrope: All Story and Lapham’s Quarterly, and have been awarded a Pushcart Prize, and a National Magazine Award. In 2014, he was a recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A Clinical Assistant Professor in the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry, his research interests include the subjective experience of mental illness and the influence of literature, history, and culture on the practice of medicine. His author website can be found at www.danielmasonbooks.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,621 reviews
Profile Image for Adriana.
7 reviews
August 7, 2007
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 London piano tuner who specializes in Erard grand pianos. He knows and loves pianos as intimately as if they were alive. This unassuming, quiet, and unadventurous man receives a commission from the British government to travel to colonial Burma to tune an Erard piano located at the outpost of Mae Lwin - a strategically important fort run by Dr. Anthony Carroll. No one knows exactly why Carroll has a grand piano there, but the urgency with which he requests Edgar's services intrigues him, and he decides to leave his wife, and his quiet life behind to travel to Burma. This is only the beginning of the novel - the rest is about Edgar's travels, and his arrival at Mae Lwin - none of which I want to describe, as it is better read for one's self.

Mason tells the story with language so beautiful and expressive that it engages each of the five senses. I saw, smelled, heard, felt, and tasted the sights and sounds of the jungle in such a way that I almost forgot I was experiencing it through the medium of a novel. I was engulfed and swept away into Edgar Drake's world.

Edgar himself is as compelling as the scenery through which he travels. On the surface, he appears to be shy and reserved, but his thoughts reveal a deep curiosity about the people, cultures, and places he encounters, and a developing insight into human nature as experienced through various types of relationships: political, familial, romantic, and colonial. Although Edgar is a middle-aged man, The Piano Tuner is essentially a bildungsroman - Edgar learns more about who he is as he confronts fears and and desires that he never knew he had, and asks questions which he never before realized he wondered about.

Throughout the The Piano Tuner, music remains the main vehicle through which Edgar's travels and his personal transformation is described. Edgar sees everything through his piano tuner's eyes, and this lends a sense of musicality to the novel which is both artistic and technical. He thinks of music as more than just beautiful sounds - he understands that mechanics lie at the root of every note a piano plays. This perspective on music demonstrates an understanding of both its mechanical precision and artistic beauty that turn out to be really one and the same. Mason's prose reflects this: it flows, but is never sloppy; the scenes he sets are imaginative but always realistic.

Overall, The Piano Tuner speaks to me because it represents so many elements in terms of music - it is about discovery, adventure, love, compassion, politics, the natural world, and self-knowldege, all understood through the simple mechanics of a piano.
Profile Image for Denise.
343 reviews18 followers
July 15, 2008
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 beautiful turns of phrase in this book, some really lyrical writing. I identified with the characters' love of music and its ability to send both performer and listener into another world.

The cons: Everything else. All that lyrical writing, those beautiful turns of phrase, rambled on in an irritating, self-indulgent fashion. I found myself scanning pages briefly, looking for the end of the digressions, pointless details, and endless descriptive phrases, so I could pick up on the plot again. Oh yes, there was a plot, though it was hard to find at times. It was occasionally interesting, and at one point it actually took an unexpected twist, but it ended with a thoroughly unsatisfactory whimper. After all that slogging through run-on sentences, lack of dialogue punctuation,and meaningless tangents, this is how I'm rewarded? No thank you.

I give it two stars because one doesn't do justice to the truly well-written parts of the book, and three might encourage someone else to read it, something my conscience will not allow. Unless that someone is really interested in 19th century Burma, the English military in far-flung outposts, or navel-gazing piano tuners.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,735 reviews1,469 followers
April 26, 2021
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,the book was simply terribly interesting.

Through page 204 of 311 + very good author's note which I have already read! I swear I know how this book will end. I think I have it all figured out. I should warn that descriptions are very detailed. Maybe one likes this, maybe one doesn't. HOW the Erard piano works mechanically was a bit too confusing for me, but probably VERY interesting for someone who really knows about pianos. Anyone who loves the piano must love this book.... You know the first piano were square, and pianos developed from the harpsicord, at least Erard's version did. Then there is one scene that is fabulous about a hollow rock that rumbles/sings. Lots of info also about plant and alternative medicine treatments too.

Through page 179: OK, here is a little complaint. The author is trying to get me scared with numerous forewatnings. I feel like I am being played with. Like there is a mystery, but nothing happens. Then it is going to pounce on me. Most people like this - I don't. I don't have to read a book for the mystery in the plot. The travelogue, the history - that is what I enjoy. Oh yes, the dialogue is superbe. The author's dialogues at different occasions care ompletely different from eachother - drunk soldiers having a ribald talk over beers, a fancy colonial luncheon in Mandalay where the talk is more British than the British, the eccentirc speeches of Dr. Carroll himself. These dialogues are each perfect and each unique. They should be different and they certainly are. How the author is able to do this is beyond me. Still, I am annoyed about the mystery ploy.....

If you haven't notices, I am always spelling things incorrectly. I totally mix up English and French and Swedish. BTW English and French keyboards are different - that too explains crazy spellings. Sorry! I am too lazy to proofread. I just want to get my feelings out. Please be kind to me and ignore my misspellings and grammatical errors. I write reviews for enjoyment; I do it for me, b/c it helps me understnad my own views. I don't do it to write a correct essay for a school paper or for publication. I hope my views get other people thinking. I want to explain what the book is really about so others can accurately decide whether it is something they really want to read. There is so much to read that we cannot be wasting our time. And each of us like different types of literature.

hrough page 89: I am reading this very slowly - it is chockfull of interesting info. Before Edgar Drake reaches Rangoon on the Irrawaddy Delta he has spent much time reading reports from the War Office and Anthony Carroll himself, the man in Burma who had requested/demanded the piano tuner. Carroll's documents are fascinating and perhaps explain the antipathy between the military personel and Carroll. Carroll is self-educated, a very cultured man who knows everything from the physical geography of Burna to its history, the language of all the different tribes, the detailed information of the land's plants and animals and much, much more. BUT WE LEARN NOTHING ABOUT THE PIANO RHAT HAS TO BE REPAIRED. This is very unsettling for us the readers and of course Edgar Drake too. So Edgar writes a letter to those employing him, informing then of the history of the piano beginning in the early 1700s and the history of Sebastien Erard who made the piano shipped to Burma. This is all verey, very fascinating. All of it. Little hints are dropped about what is going to happen to Edgar - but I will not tell you any of that! Remember no spoilers! Then Edgar gets to Rangoon and the story turns into a travelogue again. The people, the clothing, the city, all are described, the things he saw as the carriage rolled through Rangoon:

"He blinked and the tea shop disappeared. replaced by a woman holding a plate of betel nuts and tiny leaves. She pressed close to the carriage and stared inside from beneath the shade of a wide straw hat. Like some of the vendors by the shore, her face was painted with white circles, moonlike against her dark skin."

"Edgar turned to the soldier,'What is that on her face?'
'The paint?'
'Yes, I saw it on some of the women by the docks. But different patterns. Peculiar.....'
'They call it "thanaka". It is made from ground sandalwood. Almost all of the women wear it and many of the men. They cover the babies with it too.'......"

"The lane widened and the carriage picked up speed. Soon the images spun past the window too fast to be seen."

Fascinating. There is so much to learn here. Did you know that the paiano was invented by a person called Cristofori. I didn't! All through the 1700s it underwent great modifications. What happened to musical instuments in France during the French Revolution also has a story all its own. I think soon something dramatic will occur to Edgar. My lips are zipped.

Through page 77: The reader encounter storytales, a travelogue and now Burmese History is th theme. I find the quite detailed history of the Burmese-Anglo Wars from the 1820-1880s interesting, but it isn't always so easy to follow since the tribal names are so strange. They don't stick in my head. Some of the details I am sure to forget but hopefully the major events will fasten. Soon Edgar, the piano tuner, will arive in Mae Lwin, his destination, located on the eastern Shan States of British Burma near the Burmese border to Siam(Thailand). Actually the Shan people felt a cultural tie with the people of Siam more than the Burman people.

Through page 59: I very much like the author's writing style. Writing style is more important to me than the plot! I am a member of the Historical Fictionistas Group. In this group under "blurbs" there is a thread for quotes from page 42 of the book you are reading. I think this thread gives you a chance to see some random text. The text must be from page 42, NOT the beginning of the book. What a good idea! Anyhow since I copied some text there, I will now copy it here too. Basically I am very lazy! :0) Here follows what I quoted in that thread. "They" in the quote refers to the peiano tuner, who will be leaving for Burma in a few days, and his wife, who is to remain in London.

"They walk home, now they speak of inconsequentials like how many pairs of stockings he has packed, how often he will write, gifts he should bring home, how not to become ill. The conversation rests uneasily; one doesn't expect goodbyes to be burdened by 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 dity, of love. They reach home and close the door and he doesn't drop her hand. Where speach fails, touch compensates."

I find this very, very real. THIS is exactly what happens when someone dear leaves. No words are adequate to express your feelings so one resorts to trivialities. Don't you think?

The piano tuner then travels by boat and rail. You should experience how delightfully this is described - the fog in London, the color of the Mediterranean, the French views on Gerard! Fun stories are thrown in about the travelers on the boat. Here is a snippet of part of one such story:

"For when I looked up, the boys were running down a broad slope, chasing the goats. Below them stretched one of the most stunning visions I had ever seen. Indeed, had I been struck with blindness, rather than deafness, I think I would have been content. For nothing, not even the pounding surf of Babelmandeb, could match the scene that stretched out before me, the slope descending, flattening into a flat desert plain that stretched into a horizon blurred with sandstorms. And out of the thick dust, whose silence belied the rage known to anyone who has ever been caught in the terror of one of the storms, marched legions of caravans, from every point of the compass, long dark trails of horses and camels, all emerging from the blur that swept across the valley, and all converging on a tent enpcampment that lay at the base of the hill."

Wow, draw a picture of THAT in your head! Then paint in the colors....

Before starting: Can music conquer nations more effectively than military operations? Of course not, but.....

Kirkus says: "A wealth of information-musical, medical, historical, political-and numerous colorfully detailed vignettes of life in Burma's teeming cities and jungle villages."

I guess I have to add this too my must shelf!
Profile Image for Colleen.
49 reviews
January 9, 2012
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 writing style is all over the map. He changes tenses from one paragraph to the next, perhaps in an attempt to evoke a dreamlike quality. He changes abruptly from conventional conversations to long endless joycean prose wherein the reader has no idea who is actually speaking. He uses the device of official documents to convey essential information about where the piano tuner is going to travel. This last device I appreciate, except that the documents he provides are dry and long and riddled with material which one is sure doesn't matter, and filled with place and people names which an English reader simply can't grasp.

The second issue I had was his characterizations. Of the three primary characters: the tuner, the doctor, and yes the piano, I give high marks to the piano. I mean that. I know a lot more about that beautiful piano that I ever thought possible; it leads the most incredible adventures. On the other hand, we don't even meet the doctor until halfway through the book. He is supposed to be this amazing intellect, genius of diplomacy, etc. He never comes off as anything but a mysterious, manipulating jerk. Then the titular character: he lives as if in a dream, and to the very last sentence we know very little more about him than we ever did at the start.

The third issue I had was there was virtually no plot, which is, I dunno, kind of important. There's a semblance of a plot--the tuner travels from England to Burma, goes through jungles, tunes a piano, etc. He tunes that piano an awful lot, by the way. And those official military documents fill in the details between.

The fourth issue I had was that this story is apparently supposed to reflect the restricted feelings and passions of Victorian England. Brushing hands and longing looks are the most you will get, which is all well and good, but I'm just not buying it. What I mean is, I can't fathom that any 40-ish, long-married man wouldn't have more than just chaste thoughts about the exotic women around him. Acting on impulse is one thing--I accept that--but the thoughts in his mind should torment him just a little more than the average twelve year old boy.

Lastly, in the end, I just don't know what this book was about. Between the documents and chaste longings there were mysterious dream-like stories which I quickly forgot and then had to flip back to when they were referenced again. The revisitation did little to improve my understanding of their overall importance. Also, there were passages of moral reflection that struck me as jarringly too modern, but they were mostly just in passing, and had little final impact. Ultimately, I was puzzled and disappointed by the ending. Nothing had happened for 200 pages and then suddenly we were thrust pell-mell into adventure for reasons inexplicable. The paranoia of the British soldiers led to a terrible tragedy, but they were allowed to inflict it without our even beginning to understand why.
Profile Image for Eli.
76 reviews23 followers
July 3, 2007
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 each one. Where there is a need for back-story, mysterious story-tellers pop out of the woodwork to expound as neeeded. The protaganist is by turns snide and arrogant or submissive and quiet, without explanation of either. And throughout, the language is so heavy, so full of big, cumbersome words that even the scenes in the daylight seem to be covered with a sort of sticky dark fog. In all, forced and pretentious, randomly detailed, showing very little editorial restraint.
Profile Image for robin friedman.
1,792 reviews221 followers
March 10, 2022
A Moving Novel In Need Of Fine Tuning

Daniel Mason's novel The Piano Tuner (2002) is an intriguing work about the power of music, words, spirit, and the lure of the far away. The novel tells the story of Edgar Drake, a London piano tuner who, out of the blue, in 1886 is commissioned to tune an expensive Erhard grand piano in a remote outpost of Burma which had been requested by the outpost commander, Anthony Carroll, a physician and lover of music. Drake leads a quiet life and has been happily but childlessly married for many years to a woman named Katherine. The book is set against the backdrop of British imperialism and ongoing wars between Britain, France, Russia and the local Burmese.

The first half of the book moves slowly. It covers Drake's commission and his difficult voyage from London to his destination in Burma, Mae Lwin. The second part of the book describes Drake's efforts to tune the piano, his relationship with Dr. Carroll, and with a beautiful exotic Burmese woman, Khin Myo. There are twists and surprises at the end as the love of music and the depictions of the beauties of Burma become intertwined with harsh and ambiguous political and military affairs.

The novel is told with many insets from strange characters, such as "The Man with One Story" early in the novel, and through letters and dreams. Some of these insets are evocative in themselves but add little to the story and tend to slow down the work.

There is some excellent descriptive writing in the book. The parts I most enjoyed included the careful descriptions of the process of tuning a piano in the middle of the jungle. The piano tuner distinguishes between the initial tuning of the instrument, followed by the fine tuning to put the instrument in the best condition for serious playing. (I find this distinction valuable in my response to the book.) I also enjoyed the passages praising the love of music, learning, and culture, whether Western or Eastern, and a fine scene where Drake, who professes to have little skill at playing the piano, plays by memory most of the first book of Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier".

There are some graphic scenes of the book, including an amputation, a description of death by snakebite, and Drake's bout with malaria.

As the novel moves on, the reader sees Drake becoming progressively more attached to Burma and its people and coming to a new understanding of himself in a distant land.

The story is lushly told and gave me a good feeling for Drake's quest (something of an "Odyssey" in reverse) and growing efforts at self-realization. The book moves too slowly at times, the parts do not entirely fit together, and some of the basic premises of the plot, I find, were not fully explained. With its love of music, piano, and human self-awareness, this book is an outstanding initial effort by its young author. As does a quality piano, however, it could have used fine tuning.

Robin Friedman
Profile Image for Ana.
633 reviews84 followers
April 16, 2022
Muito bom, a história, a escrita, as referência históricas e à história natural da Birmânia, e o ambiente um tanto onírico no qual se entra assim que se pega no livro. É quase difícil acreditar que se trate do livro de estreia de um autor. A badana da minha edição diz que Daniel Mason estava, na altura, a preparar um outro livro sobre Pedro Álvares Cabral, tenho que procurar :)
Profile Image for Olga Kowalska (WielkiBuk).
1,412 reviews2,301 followers
March 10, 2021
Daniel Mason bawi się motywami literackimi „Jądra ciemności” Josepha Conrada i „Odysei” Homera w porywającej wirtuozerią powieści historyczno-obyczajowej o wielkiej wyprawie i niespokojnych duchach kolonializmu.

U Daniela Masona nawiązania do klasyki literatury nasuwają się same. Nie są w żaden sposób odkrywcze ani rozbrajające wyobraźnię czytelnika – Mason ich nie ukrywa, ale celowo prowadzi czytelnika dobrze znanymi tropami. Ta oczywistość nawiązań do „Jądra ciemności” Josepha Conrada nie odbiera mu jednak wiarygodności, niczego też nie upraszcza, przeciwnie – sam „Stroiciel” nabiera głębi i uniwersalności. Otoczony legendami Carroll, niczym kultowy już Kurtz, jawi się jako buntownik, poeta, lekarz i wizjoner w sercu dżungli, który trzyma w garści brytyjskie sojusze z miejscowymi monarchami. Ekscentryk o kuszących ideach, który pacyfikuje wrogów poezją i muzyką, „szerzy kulturę i cywilizację”, żołnierz, który zarządza jednym z najbardziej zagrożonych, a jednocześnie najistotniejszych strategicznie posterunków kolonii Imperium Brytyjskiego. Carroll ukrywa się w sercu dżungli od tylu już lat, że zatracił poczucie swojej pierwotnej misji. W zamian wykreował swój własny system, który budzi kontrowersje pośród jego zagubionych przełożonych. Cywilizacja Zachodu jest dla Carrolla (tak jak kiedyś dla Kurtza) odległym zaledwie wspomnieniem, a dżungla, przepowiednie i prawda miejscowych przymierzy – nowym prawem. To inny świat. Jego świat.

Mason zabiera czytelnika do tej innej, „obcej” rzeczywistości – konfrontuje buchający nowoczesnością Londyn z pochłaniającą przyrodą i tradycją dawnej Birmy. Dżunglę miasta, które nigdy nie śpi z dżunglą, która rozbrzmiewa rykiem tygrysów, małp i nieznanych ptaków. Nad wszystkim unoszą się niedopowiedzenia i tajemnice, które w „Stroicielu” podsyca postać samego Carrolla. Oraz liczne konflikty, które wybuchają tu nagle, pochłaniając wszystko na swojej drodze.

Piękna to, choć uproszczona na potrzeby samego czytelnika, opowieść o błędach i obłędach kolonializmu – niby to wszystko już było, ale „Stroiciel” Daniela Masona działa na wyobraźnię, umiejętnie krocząc za śladami największych twórców literatury.
Profile Image for Ellen R.
4 reviews
July 1, 2013
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 this happened, it was useful to convey the speed at which any point of action or breathless experience happened. However, it wasn't to my taste.

The story itself was oddly... unexciting. Edgar traveled to a small town across the globe to tune an Erard Grand piano. Nothing really happened, it seemed to just be the narrative of his journey, until the ending anyway.

And yet, I feel changed by this book. I think that I can say with complete honesty that it is the single most beautiful story I've ever read. It's not one of my usual types of books, there was no real suspense. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed it so thoroughly. This book was tranquil, thoughtful. It made me think about how I appreciate the music I listen to and play, and it made me appreciate the limited number of Back preludes in my repertoire with a new understanding.

The description and language in this book was stunning. The writer involved all of the readers sentences in his narrative, and he managed to do this without boring the reader with unnecessary lengthy odes about rainforest flora. The vocabulary was nothing short of sublime. The words were delectable on your tongue.

There was a lot of slightly out-of-context information, such as the history of the Erard piano. However, this information was simply fascinating, and despite that it did not add strictly to the story, it was very welcome.

There were many references to various pieces throughout the book. I strongly recommend any reader to look up these references while reading, as they greatly add to the enjoyment of the story. The piece he used to describe the early courtship of his wife was particularly telling.

It would have been very easy for me to dislike this book, and I don't. I love this book, it probably currently sits at the top of my all time favorites. It was simply stunningly beautiful. I honestly don't know why it affected me so deeply, but I do know that I'm glad of it. If you have a few days ahead to read a book properly, then I strongly urge you to choose this one.
Profile Image for Robert Blumenthal.
811 reviews70 followers
February 5, 2019
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 accepts the job. It takes a while for him to get to the piano, and the book relates his adventures on his journey.

He finally gets to tune and then play the piano which are described in detail. Being a pianist and a composer, I was fascinated by these descriptions. I could see where they may become somewhat tedious for others. And the book is as much jungle adventure and somewhat sultry romance as it is about music. It is very well-written and quite atmospheric. The surgeon may not be all that he seems, and the beautiful Burmese assistant remains alluring and mysterious throughout.

The ending was a little open-ended. This reader was not completely sure what the motives of everyone involved were. Yet the slow and sensuous aura as well as the description of music kept me quite satisfied through to the end.
Profile Image for Eylül Görmüş.
330 reviews1,579 followers
December 19, 2022
AŞIRI söyleneceğim, baştan belirtiyorum. Söylenmem kitapla ilgili ol(a)mayacak çünkü vay anasını, bir kitap bu kadar berbat bir çeviriyle nasıl basılabilmiş, çok şaşkınım. Durumun vahametini tek bir örnekle anlatmak istiyorum: kitabın adı bile yanlış! Metnin her yerinde "akortçu" olarak geçen sözcüğü sadece kapakta "akordçu" olarak d harfi ile yazmışlar. Yani özensizlik seviyesini varın siz düşünün. Akademi Kültür Sanat Yayıncılık'a dair pek bir iz bulamadım internette, artık yoklar sanırım, açıkçası şaşırdığımı söyleyemeyeceğim. Yarabbim. (Kitapta "Fransa çok enteresan bir şehirdir" diye bir cümle var, bakın bu kadar söylüyorum, böyle bir çeviri rezaletinden bahsediyoruz, birleşik yazılmış de/da'lara ve soru eklerine hiç girmiyorum bile.)

Neyse. Yine de kitapla ilgili bir şeyler söylemeyi deneyeyim. Amerikalı yazar Daniel Mason'ın pek övülen ilk kitabı bu. 19. yüzyıl sonunda Burma'dayız. (Orwell'in Burma Günleri kitabından az çok aşinayım Burma'nın -bugünkü adıyla Myanmar- İngiliz sömürgesi olduğu döneme, tanıdık bir yere gitmişim gibi hissettim biraz.) İmparatorluğun Savaş Bürosu, Burma'daki bir askerinin nadir bulunan Enard marka piyanosunu akort ettirmek için bir uzmana ihtiyacı olduğunu söylüyor ve piyano akortçusu Edgar Drake'e görevi teklif ediyor.

Sonrası bir yolculuk hikayesi, Drake'in Burma'ya gidip piyanonun sahibi olan enteresan asker/doktor Carroll ile tanışması, savaş ve gelişen olaylar. Çeviri nedeniyle yazarın diline dair hiçbir şekilde fikrim oluşamadı maalesef, ama öykü sürükleyici ve ilginçti. Yer yer fazla Batılı bir yerden bakıp biraz oryantalist bir ton tutturuyor yazar ve fazla mistik bir Doğu betimliyor ama böyle hafif destansı, lezzetli bir hali de var. İmparatorluğun sömürgecilik pratikleri de tabii kitapta bolca yer buluyor.

Mason besbelli ki pek çalışkan bir yazar. Özellikle piyano akorduna, bölgenin dönem koşullarına, o çağın tıbbi pratiklerine müthiş çalışmış ve çok detaylı yazmış, hakikaten bir günce okuyor gibi hissettim yer yer.

Bunun ötesinde söyleyebileceğim bir şey yok çünkü dediğim gibi, çeviri sağolsun, anlamadım bir şey. Neyse. Bu da böyle oldu. Bir daha da bilmediğim yayınevinin kitabına bulaşmam.
Profile Image for Kelly.
124 reviews6 followers
April 22, 2008
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 something to make the schoolmarm happy.

Sorry, I just cannot endorse this one. Pass it over, pass it up, pass it along. There are better things out there to read.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,989 reviews14 followers
March 6, 2014
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 Division of Military Ops, to Edgar Drake, Piano Tuner.

King Mindon Min

Asylum for the Ragged Poor

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".
'Ozymandias' by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Page 24

Page 31. King Thibaw


Mason's research is too visible so this has a tendency to read like an info dump.

LATER Cannot go on

*crawls across the floor like a waterless person in the middle of the dry Dry DRy DRY DRY Sahara*

Love me some amateur dramatics, brings me back to life!
Profile Image for Vonia.
611 reviews97 followers
January 20, 2019
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 forests of Burma, my other senses also being stirred. I could hear the music, feel the allure of a foreign country, see the lush scenery, envision the sexual tension with , understand the enchantment Carroll had over almost everyone he met, identify with Drake’s uncompromising passion and dedication (specifically to his philosophy that music had the power to change lives), and palpably experience the ambiance of war.
It was such a disappointment, therefore, to find myself speed-reading through passages, wanting the scene to be over with. This is not what one should be thinking while reading an exceptional book. One should not be thinking, at all, but be completely immersed in another world, never wanting it to disappear. And I have every confidence that Mason has that ability. And he succeeded… for parts of the book. But then he went on, and I lost interest.
I found myself disappointed. I will say that the last chapters of the book were a wonderful, unexpected shock that did redeem The Piano Tuner for me, but not quite to perfection.
A similar read, in regards to beautiful, evocative, poetic language, foreign settings in a time of war, and transporting adventure, is Kim Echlin's The Disappeared. In my opinion, with a little tuning (pun intended) Mason’s The Piano Tuner could easily have been as excellent, if not more so...

The Disappeared
Profile Image for Antonio.
123 reviews53 followers
April 21, 2016
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.

We are then awarded magnificent scenarios of Burma of the nineteenth century, with such a precise description that we can close our eyes and see ourselves surrounded by that astonishing paradise. Besides the slow rhythm of the narrative, we can still be taken by some of Drake's adventure.

More significant than the adventures, however, is the love story contained in this pages. Mason's description of Edgar's actions and reflections are so accurate that we feel like we listening to every thought in his mind, considering every possible action which can take place at that moment. Still, this work contains what I can only call one of the most beautiful love scenes I've ever read. It was a simple picture, yet enchanting, composed by only a man, a woman and a piano - what another result could come from that?

Four stars full of joy to this adventure through the mysteries of Burma and the inscrutability of love.
Profile Image for Victor Sonkin.
Author 18 books310 followers
December 20, 2020
Interwoven, multifaceted, musical, exotic; there are so many things one could say in praise of it. A very good novel. I am only giving it four stars because, in my classification, this is good, and because The Winter Soldier is even better.
Profile Image for Friederike Knabe.
398 reviews155 followers
March 18, 2012
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 extraordinary adventure for the rather aloof and unassuming Edgar Drake. His journey into Burma's interior and what happens to him there and how he handles himself in this exotic unknown world forms the centre of Daniel Mason's richly imagined external and internal journey. Yes, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness easily comes to mind; although Mason spins his story rather differently and comparisons to Marlow and Kurtz fade quickly.

Traditionally conceived in structure as in narrative flow, this debut novel shines, in particular, for its lush and evocative depiction of the setting, the scenery surrounding the small village of Mae Lwin. In rich poetic prose Mason paints the colours of the jungle, evokes the sounds of the river and the play of sunlight and shade. Edgar is increasingly drawn to the pace and the atmosphere that touches all senses... Tuning the piano is not the only task that waits for him, though. The longer he stays, the more his life becomes interwoven with that of the community, and especially with Carroll and the mysterious Khin Myo. This region of Burma is at different levels a dangerous place where the Doctor reigns supreme: his reputation ascribes him both unusual medical knowledge and skills as well as military and negotiation talents when dealing with the indigenous peoples living in the rebellious Shan States. The British Army in Burma, very reluctantly goes along with the Doctor's role however unusual, until... Their final aims appear to be compatible.

While the novel's central characters are fiction, the historical setting is factually accurate. Mason spent time in Burma to research (as a biologist) into Malaria and his intimate knowledge of the environment is tangible. His description of a malaria patient's delirium is haunting as it is beautiful. The character developments of Edgar and to a lesser degree Carroll leave the reader with some questions. It may have been the intention of the author , yet it does leave the story open to different interpretations. Still, overall I learned much about Burma during this time in history, couched in a dramatic adventure story. Quibbles? Some of the historical details, conveyed through "official briefing papers", read too drawn out for me. Similarly some of the more technical aspects of tuning an Erard piano.
Profile Image for Terrie  Robinson.
396 reviews581 followers
July 29, 2020
"The Piano Tuner" by Daniel Mason was a disappointing read.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the story line because I did - initially. I love historical fiction, it's my favorite genre! I was looking forward to this one from the description I read beforehand. When I began reading everything changed...

Piano tuner, Edgar Drake, is commissioned by the British War Office to repair a rare out of tune piano for an eccentric army surgeon living in the jungles of Burma. Edgar's journey was long, long, long - half-a-book long! When he finally arrives at his destination, the mysterious surgeon still does not surface until sometime later.

All the while, the author provided great detail about piano tuning, the piano's journey to Burma and Colonialism in his writing. So much detail in fact that, in my opinion, it spiraled out of control. It was superfluous information that didn't lend any value to the story other than to make it longer. The author seemed to lose focus, getting off track. This was evident by the absence of editing necessary for the author and out of respect to the reader!

The characters seemed to be underdeveloped, superficial and not whom they first seemed to be. Hoping for more from this book as I read and continued to read, the ending offered nothing.

I guess this book just wasn't for me!
394 reviews
July 5, 2008
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 from reading the book). I also enjoyed the references to art and recalled reading The DaVinci Code and running to the computer to do a google search on particular paintings. This would be a good book club book. A number of good topics for discussion.
Profile Image for César Lasso.
353 reviews70 followers
February 9, 2015
Li este livro já lá vão uns cinco anos. Achei a história interessante e exótica, o qual agradeci já que eu, na altura, precisava de evadir-me com livros de aventuras. No entanto, tenho uma forte crítica acerca da trama: não teria bastado escolher um protagonista que fosse afinador de flautas? No meio da leitura, há uma passagem de páginas que parecem infindáveis acerca dos pormenores técnicos da arte de afinar pianos. Não é que não goste eu da musicalidade desse instrumento, mas não tenho nenhum interesse em conhecer os pormenores técnicos. Ao que parece, a humidade da floresta birmanesa tinha afectado as entranhas do piano, mas os efeitos dessa humidade foram para mim uma seca de parafusos, cordas e eu não sei que mais trastes. Ai, Jesus: não abandonei a leitura por um triz.
Profile Image for Kathy.
3,343 reviews177 followers
May 27, 2019
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 man on quite a trip. Think Odysseus.

Woven within this haunting tale there are interesting nuggets about opium's role in the region and malaria treatment.

Author Notes: "The pacification of the Shan States represented a critical period in British imperial expansion...My story ends in approximately April 1887, when the principality of Lawksawk was occupied by British forces."
Profile Image for Dan.
453 reviews4 followers
April 4, 2021
Daniel Mason’s The Piano Tuner is an engrossing and well-told story of late nineteenth century British imperialism and jingoism, joined to an equally well-told story of musical obsession. Sited in London and in current day Myanmar, The Piano Tuner revolves around Edwin Drake, a middle-aged expert tuner of elegant Erard pianos, and Surgeon-Major Anthony J. Carroll, a naturalist, physician, and musician stationed in remote Myanmar near the Thai border. The Piano Tuner is at times didactic, at times ranges from fantastical to unlikely, but it’s nevertheless fascinating. 4.5 stars
Profile Image for FicusFan.
125 reviews5 followers
June 29, 2008
had to read this book for a local book group. I am very pleased because I would never have found it otherwise. I actually want to give it 3.5 stars but Goodreads won't let me.

The book is set in Victorian times, and has a middle class piano tuner sent to the wilds of unsettled Burma, among the Raj, to tune a French Erard piano.

The story is about class, the conflict of cultures, the life patterns that people and societies develop, and how they will ignore reality and cling to the pattern even when it no longer applies.

The shy, sheltered piano tuner, Edgar Drake has an inner world that revolves around music and a dreamy way of looking at life. He is detached and disconnected from his world and his place in it: not comfortable with the lower classes he employs, and not accepted by the rich and aristocratic who employ him. His wife Katherine is his only connection to reality.

He escapes the pattern of his life and travels to Burma to tune a piano for an eccentric British officer, at the reluctant behest of the War Office. The officer, Anthony Carroll is a medical doctor and humanist, who is trying to construct a peace through respect, learning, and cultural compromise in a remote outpost in the Shan States. He is despised by many of the more traditional War minded officers who believe in War, their cultural superiority and destiny to rule and 'civilize' the darker races. They also have personally internalized the characteristics of the Raj, the British Rulers, some of whom are upper class, and others who emulate them (they are accorded the same status overseas because they are white and British, but would not be at afforded the same social rank at home). Drake does not take this opportunity to boost his status at the expense of the locals.

There is conflict between Carroll and many of the local British establishment. Carroll is able to keep the peace in his remote outpost, while the rest of the Brits are engaged in trying to annex and subjugate the Burmese and the people of the Shan States. The Shan States are a bulwark against foreign meddlers (French), so Carroll's eccentricity is tolerated. Carroll uses music and the piano to bridge the cultural gap with the Shan and forge mutual cooperation, rather than conflict and war. He uses what is good from the Brits, and takes what is good from the Shan, and mixes it to develop understanding and peace.

Once Drake arrives in Burma he meets a mysterious Burmese woman, Khin Myo. She is a distant cousin of the royals and is an elite, educated woman who can speak English. She runs the guest house where he stays in Mandalay, and is employed by the British. Drake becomes enchanted with her and with the setting, and the culture. She and a sympathetic member of the Raj take Drake on a quick cultural tour of Mandalay. This contrasted with an official British function where the Raj are in full display, completely ignoring the fact that they are in a foreign country, the tropics, thousands of miles from England. They dress and behave and talk as if they were at a London party, or weekend gathering. The official position is to have contempt for the natives, the country and Dr. Carroll.

Another of Drake's adventures with the local Brits in Mandalay is a tiger hunt. Edgar is shown the true face of the Raj, and the British establishment. One of the officers has taken on the role of the great white hunter, the superior British officer. He is only interested in filling his role, of collecting pelts for display and talking points. He shoots at a rustle in the bushes, even though native women and other Brits in his party try to stop him. He shoots a native child, but it matters so little to them, that they actually report the accident, and nothing happens to the Brits. The native child's life is so worthless that the official Brits view it as little more than a traffic violation. The shooter was going through the motions of the pattern expected of him, even though it was not based in reality, and he was rewarded by those in power for being true to form.

Khin Myo is also a confidant of Carroll and she spirits Drake to Carroll's camp secretly, when the local Brits want to ship him home without him ever seeing Carroll or the piano. One also has to wonder what motivates Khin Myo and if she might be a spy/double agent for some other agency ?

Later, in Carroll's remote camp Drake plays the tuned piano for a group of Shan princes. Carroll is trying to broker a peace. They also go to another site with a larger group of Shan bigwigs to finalize what was started in the camp. Just before Drake's arrival and just after the peace is concluded, Carroll's camp is attacked by bandits, some of whom are using British rifles. The bandit king, also at the large meeting, lets Drake know he is aware of his true identity (piano tuner), not the fake rank Carroll introduced him with. It appears that the bandit king has the most to lose if there is peace. Both the Brits and the Shan will hunt him then. He also appears to have a connection to the British outside of Carroll. He manages to flit around the countryside, killing and robbing at will. Does he have a pass from the Brits because he is their spy on Carroll ?

When the last attack on Carroll's camp happens, Drake is sent away with the piano for safety, just before the attackers arrive. Later it turns out that it is the British who are the attackers. They track Drake and kill his teenage guides and arrest him. They have decided that Carroll is a spy for the enemy French (based on the French Piano), or Russian (because his handler in the War Office in London has been found with notes written in Russian), and that Drake is his accomplice. They also have knowledge of what happened at the last meeting with the Shan princes that only a spy could have told them (Bandit king ?).

The Raj of course interpret the agreement as one of war against the British, rather than peace.
They are acting out their life pattern and the pattern of their society, to destroy, to dominate, to overcome, even when it may not be necessary, even when they have to kill innocents of little social value to do so. They can't see anything that doesn't fit their ideas of how things should be. The reader is left to wonder what is true, which side is telling the truth ?

The whole story is told with beauty and with a blending of dream, imagination, and myth. It often becomes hard to tell what is real, what is dreamed, what is imagined and hoped for as opposed to what actually happens. Throughout the book Drake is engaged in a journey of wonder and that is expressed and sometimes conflicts with the linear, orderly narrative of the story.

It is a very good read, and gives you a lot to think about because there are so many possibilities and interpretations. The writing flows; he does odd things with dialog, but it works. There is a lot of detail about Burma, the Burmese and the Shan. There are Burmese and Shan characters who get to present their lives and desires without going through the British, so they can speak to the reader directly.

Mason also includes a good bit of information about piano tuning and music. The patterns in music are the metaphor for the patterns their lives are set in by the song their society decides to sing. Very few people are able to resist the pattern and the song of their societies, and make a meaningful life on their own.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jan.
492 reviews11 followers
September 5, 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 story that reminded me a little bit of Jorge Luis Borges's details with a little Conrad "Heart of Darkness" to give shape to the narrative.
Profile Image for Anastasiya.
82 reviews34 followers
May 26, 2023
Дениэл Мэйсон демонстрирует, каким красивым, поэтичными, захватывающим и удивительно изящным может быть роман о рояле в кустах
Profile Image for Gladia.
61 reviews24 followers
January 12, 2010
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 go on. I'm bored to death.
Is the problem the book or is it me? I read Kavalier&Clay in one week and I'm at month two with this novel. Clearly something is not working so, at least for the moment, I'm taking a break with it.

I bought it almost by accident and rather unintentionally. I was looking for an easy reading, I liked the title, I have a soft spot for second hand copies and I was in a place that naturally puts you in the mood for buying books. Moreover I liked that Mason's primary occupation isn't being a novelist but rather being a medical student. And there you go, the book left Copenhagen to spend the next two months by my bed, neglected by me. No, not neglected, even worse I did, I was cheating on him with economics books and newspapers. But reminding myself that books aren't that alive (or are they?), The Piano Tuner wasn't so much for me, at least not right now.

There were things I liked, for instance this sweet analogy:'"Clementi, sonata in F sharp minor," Katherine said, and he nodded. He had once told her it reminded him of a sailor lost at sea. His love awaiting him on a shore. In the notes hid the sound of the waves, gulls.' --- maybe a Mason went a bit over the top, but I still like this metaphor.

Interesting reflections on travelling far: 'I have seen a world that is very different, yet I have not begun to understand it. Coming here has created a strange feeling of emptiness in me that I didn't know I had, and I don't know whether heading into the jungle will fill it, or tear it further open' --- this one thought I like very much. That sense of emptiness is there when you travel, you feel it inside.

Anyway, boredom had the best over those nice little things reported above. Maybe one day we'll meet again the piano tuner and I (in London rather than Burma, I hope)
384 reviews
April 21, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Leah.
1,386 reviews210 followers
August 21, 2022

Piano tuner Edgar Blake specializes in Erard pianos, a French make. One day in 1886, he receives a strange request from the War Office – to go to Mae Lwin, a small colonial outpost in Burma, to tune the Erard of the mysterious Doctor Anthony Carroll who is trying to negotiate peace between warring factions in the country. But who is Dr Carroll? There are so many conflicting stories about him, not least the one of him demanding that the War Office provide him first with a valuable grand piano and then with a specialist to tune it…

Perhaps if I hadn’t read Heart of Darkness I would have thought this story was interesting and original. However, I have, so I didn’t. The major differences are that Heart of Darkness is indeed original, is wonderfully written, and isn’t padded out with a zillion words of extraneous description and potted history of the country presented in the form of army reports. The other major difference is that Kurtz (the mystery man in Heart of Darkness) is indeed mysterious and enigmatic, and is a metaphor for the darkness of colonialism and how it corrupts the coloniser as much as the colonised; whereas Carroll isn’t. Lastly, Heart of Darkness ends believably and memorably; this one doesn’t.

I admit I skimmed the last 30%, so bored was I by that stage by the endless descriptions – it was like being forced to look at the three hundred photos someone has brought back from a holiday, all of them of trees. (This actually happened to me on one occasion – three hundred is not an exaggeration – and I thought I might actually die of boredom, or be forced to commit murder to make it stop. This book made me feel the same way.) It reads as if Mason spent a great holiday in Burma and wanted to share every impression of the country, regardless of relevance, and tacked on a lot of historical facts that he’d gleaned, perhaps from a guide book, perhaps from wikipedia, to try to turn it into a novel. And then there are the details about how to tune a piano.

Yep. That’s about all I have to say about this one.

Profile Image for Ginger Bensman.
Author 2 books59 followers
June 21, 2020
The Piano Tuner has an intriguing premise (an English piano tuner in the 1880s with an excellent reputation who specializes in tuning the esoteric Erard piano is commissioned to travel to the jungles of Burma during the British occupation, to tune a piano for the elusive and infamous Major Carroll). Daniel Mason is a talented writer. His descriptions of Burma and its people are atmospheric and immersive, and I came away from the book almost feeling I had been there, but the trajectory and action of the story were slow to evolve and so improbable that I finished it being unconvinced.
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