Sunday, February 28

Book Review: The Piano Tuner

Title: The Piano Tuner

Author: Daniel Mason

Pages: 312

Summary: 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 protagonist into a world of seductive loveliness and nightmarish intrigue. And as he follows Drake’s journey, Mason dazzles readers with his erudition, moves them with his vibrantly rendered characters, and enmeshes them in the unbreakable spell of his storytelling.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a random used bookstore grab I got last year, and it was a very worth while spur of the moment buy. I really enjoyed this book the idea behind the story is rather odd, a piano deep in the harsh jungles of Burma, but the idea worked out well. The author took a chance, and he definitely made it work. The book starts off introducing us to Edgar, a piano tuner, who leads a fairly dull life, he tunes pianos, goes home to his wife (and is usually late) and that’s about it, but then he gets a chance to tune an 1840 Erard Grand Piano, which is in the jungles of Burma. The eccentric Doctor Anthony Carroll has asked for a piano tuner and he gets one.

The beginning of the book is slow, which is a bit of a fault of the book, but once Edgar set off towards Burma, it be came an amazing story. First of all the descriptions of the scenery, the jungle, the spices in the huts on the streets in Burma were spectacular. You could almost smell and taste the turmeric, flowers and jungle air. I think that this was one of the author’s greatest strengths; the ability to pull the readers into the lands of Burma and what show them what it looked (and smelled) like. The overall story was also well done, it made for a very interesting, and at times mysterious read. There were so many elements in the book that left the reader wanting to learn more, or thinking there was more than meets the eye, mysterious elements and characters were a big part of the book. Anthony Carroll was one of them. Up till the reader was finally introduced to Carroll, he to was also a big mystery, everyone talked about him, the wonders he’s done for the little community he’s set up within the jungle, and all the other progress he’s made. His character didn’t disappoint once he physically showed up. I was really wrapped up in the “magical spell” that had grasped Edgar and made him fall for the little village Carroll had set up. The ending was well done, although it made me “angry” in a sense I wasn’t expecting what happened, to happen at all, and was hoping for something else, but it was still a great ending. Can’t say much more on that, or else I’d give it away.

I think one of the most interesting things about the book is the metaphor of the beauty of this piano in the harsh jungles where war is being fought, but it rests in a community that Carroll has created with the natives of the land where they live together peacefully. Yet they also live in a place that could be raided by the enemy at any time. I liked the parallels the author was trying to make (at least I think that’s what he was doing.)

What I didn’t like, like I said the beginning was a little slow, and one main thing is that at times the author, when writing dialog doesn’t use the traditional format of using quotation marks, separate line breaks etc. So it made it difficult at times to figure out that it was in fact a conversation going on, and who was saying what. Although it doesn’t happening through out the whole book, it does pop up a few times. But this element also works in a why, such as when it was used during a dinner party, with very minor characters, during an introduction. It gave a way for the reader to see all the introductions, and minor chit-chat around that, without a long explanation of each character or their first meeting with another character. But other than that, well done, a fantastic book that introduced me to the enchanting lands of Burma.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend it to read, even some of you out there who would be bothered by the unusual presentation of the dialog (it happens so few times), I’d say try it out. It’s a worth while read.

What to read next: I want to say Heart of Darkness, because there were some minor (very minor) similarities in it. But I'm not to sure after that, so I'll use one of the LibraryThing Recommendations :  Saving Fish from Drowning. It looks interesting, and is also set in Burma. Other that I'm at a loss.

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, Countdown Challenge, Global Challenge, Historical Reading, RYOB Challenge, What’s in a Name III Challenge


  1. Ok! You have convinced me that I need to read this book! I love it when an author excels at description and can make you really see what he is describing, so this is definitely the book for me. I am off to find myself a copy! Great review! Very powerful!

  2. Zibilee - Ooo! I'm glad I convinced you! Yah! I hope you enjoy the book when you get to it