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The Piano Tuner: A Novel

The Piano Tuner: A Novel

3.9 39
by Daniel Mason

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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


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 readers into a world of seductive, vibrantly rendered characters, and enmeshes them in an unbreakable spell of storytelling.

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

Editorial Reviews

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In late-19th-century London, expert piano tuner Edgar Drake receives a strange request in the name of Her Majesty's War Office. His mission? To service a rare grand piano delivered with difficulty and at great expense to an eccentric officer in a remote region of the Army's Burmese division. Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll occupies a post of particular strategic interest to Britain, and Her Majesty's government has reluctantly agreed to his demand for a piano under his threat of resignation. His current request for a piano tuner carries the same warning, but this history is of little interest to Drake, who emerges from his introverted shell just long enough to recognize the potential for adventure should he accept this bizarre commission.

Upon arrival in Burma, Drake realizes that the primary opposition to Major Carroll comes from within the British Army. Carroll hasn't followed protocol regarding the surrender of his territory to the English Crown, preferring to negotiate with the tribal leaders to preserve the local culture. Carroll's anticolonial approach is deemed unacceptable, placing him in dangerous territory, with enemies on all sides, and effectively prohibiting Drake's travel to the needy piano. Disobeying orders, Drake undertakes the forbidden journey to the rare piano with the help of a beautiful and mysterious guide.

Mason's virtuoso descriptions of exotic precolonial Burma make The Piano Tuner a magical and symphonic trip to what might have been -- and what might still be -- if humanity can manage to abandon the endless struggle for power and wealth and accept music as a more effective weapon than artillery. (Fall 2002 Selection)

Richly imagined, The Piano Tuner winds like a lazy river, carrying the reader into the mythic land of Kipling and Conrad.
A rattling good story, complex characterizations, and a brilliantly realized portrayal of an alien culture-all combine to dazzling effect in this first by a California medical student who has worked and studied in the Far East. Piano tuner Edgar Drake undertakes his journey (thrillingly described), arriving at the inland fortress where the suave Dr. Anthony Carroll-part Albert Schweitzer, part Mistah Kurtz of Heart of Darkness-rules as a benevolent despot, aided by a beautiful Burmese woman to whom Edgar finds himself increasingly attracted. A wealth of information-musical, medical, historical, political-and numerous colorfully detailed vignettes of life in Burma's teeming cities and jungle villages provide a solid context for the intricate plot, which brings Drake into 'complicity' with Carroll's visionary dream...until the powerful denouement [and the] deeply ironic climactic action. (One keeps thinking of what a marvelous movie The Piano Tuner might make.) . . . An irresistible amalgam of Kipling, Rider Haggard, and Conrad at their very best. Masterful.
The New Yorker
Forty-one-year-old Edgar Drake seems an unlikely protagonist for a bildungsroman. Happy with his wife of eighteen years and his reputation as one of the finest piano tuners in late-nineteenth-century London, he is "a man whose life is defined by creating order so that others may make beauty." Transformation comes in the form of a summons to a remote outpost in Burma: a maverick British officer there has imported a vintage Erard grand into the jungle, where the humidity has caused it to lose its temperament. Drake's journey to the Far East is a kind of anti-"Heart of Darkness," as he opens himself up to the uncertainty and wonder of human experience. In this début novel, Mason proves himself equally adept at scenes of wry humor and moments of rapture; most remarkable, he has written a profound adventure story with an unexpected climax, as the mild piano tuner finally becomes the hero of his own life.
Penelope Mesic
Set in Burma in 1886—a place of gilded temples, warring chieftains and duplicitous imperial powers struggling for dominance of Mandalay—this debut novel sparkles with exoticism. Unfortunately, the story can't conceal its inherent improbability nor the pedestrian nature of its title character, London piano tuner Edgar Drake, summoned from half a world away to tune the instrument of a brilliant, reclusive English officer, Anthony Carroll. In the first chapter, Carroll—botanist, diplomat, physician, linguist—is implausibly described as having won the heart of a warlord by reciting to him Shelley's "Ozymandias." Since Shelley's poem mocks the futility of power and military might, it seems like the least likely sonnet in the English language to win a warrior's heart. Certainly the choice belies Carroll's supposed reputation as a diplomat. As the piano tuner, a banal fellow capable of noting that "the camera is a wonderful invention indeed," inches his way toward the brilliant eccentric in the heart of the jungle, it is impossible not to think of this book as a sort of Heart of Darkness lite.
Library Journal
In October 1886, piano tuner Edgar Drake receives an astonishing request from the War Office. He is asked to go to Burma to tune the Erard piano of Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll, to whom the office is much indebted for keeping the peace in the remote and restless Shan States. Drake accepts the assignment and launches on a journey of self-discovery that takes him from London to Calcutta to Rangoon and, with the help of a mysterious Burmese woman named Khin Myo, to the compound of the formidable Dr. Carroll himself. Yes, he successfully tunes the piano and even plays a concert for visiting dignitaries he chooses Bach's immortal Well-Tempered Clavier, reasoning that it has universal application but Drake finds that he cannot leave. He is altered by the beauty of the place, slowly opening himself to Khin Myo, and caught up in Carroll's machinations, which may or may not be seditious. It ends, inevitably, in tragedy, but the reader will regret that it ends at all. This is an utterly involving first novel, rich in historical detail and as lulling as Burma itself. Mason's language is at once tropically lush and as precise as a Bach prelude. A novel for readers of literary and popular fiction alike; highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/02.] Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
New York Times
Confidently weaving historical fact together with his own imaginative constructions, Mr. Mason creates a riveting narrative.... he has written a seductive and lyrical novel that probes the brutalities and compromises of colonization, even as it celebrates the elusive powers of music and the imagination. Michiko Kakutani

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Chapter 1

It was afternoon in the office of Colonel Killian, Director of Operations for the Burma Division of the British army. Edgar Drake sat by a pair of dark, rattling heating pipes and stared out the window, watching the sweep of rain. Across the room sat the Colonel, a broad, sunburnt man with a shock of red hair and a thick mustache that fanned out in combed symmetry, underlining a fierce pair of green eyes. Behind his desk hung a long Bantu lance and a painted shield that still bore the scars of battle. He wore a scarlet uniform, edged with braids of black mohair. Edgar would remember this, for the braids reminded him of a tiger's stripes, and the scarlet made the green eyes greener.

Several minutes had passed since the Colonel had entered the room, drawn up a chair behind a deeply polished mahogany desk, and begun to thumb through a stack of papers. At last he looked up. From behind the mustache came a stentorian baritone. "Thank you for waiting, Mr. Drake. I had a matter of urgency to attend to."

The piano tuner turned from the window. "Of course, Colonel." He fingered his hat in his lap.

"If you don't mind, then we will begin at once with the matter at hand." The Colonel leaned forward. "Again, welcome to the War Office. I imagine this is your first visit here." He did not leave time for the piano tuner to respond. "On behalf of my staff and superiors, I appreciate your attention to what we consider a most serious matter. We have prepared a briefing regarding the background of this affair. If you agree, I think it would be most expedient if I summarize it for you first. We can discuss any questions you may have when you know more details." He rested his hand on a stack of papers.

"Thank you, Colonel," replied the tuner quietly. "I must admit that I was intrigued by your request. It is most unusual."

Across the table the mustache wavered. "Most unusual indeed, Mr. Drake. We do have much to discuss of this matter. If you haven't recognized by now, this commission is as much about a man as it is about a piano. So I will begin with Surgeon-Major Carroll himself."

The piano tuner nodded.

The mustache wavered again. "Mr. Drake, I will not bother you with the details of Carroll's youth. Actually, his background is somewhat mysterious, and we know little. He was born in 1833, of Irish stock, the son of Mr. Thomas Carroll, a teacher of Greek poetry and prose at a boarding school in Oxfordshire. Although his family was never wealthy, his father's interest in education must have been passed along to his son, who excelled at school, and left home to pursue medicine at University College Hospital in London. Upon graduation, rather than open a private surgery as most were inclined to do, he applied for a position at a provincial hospital for the poor. As earlier, we have few records of Carroll during this time, we only know that he remained in the provinces for five years. During this time he married a local girl. The marriage was short-lived. His wife died in childbirth, along with their child, and Carroll never remarried."

The Colonel cleared his throat, picked up another document, and continued. "Following his wife's death, Carroll returned to London, where he applied for a position as a physician at the Asylum for the Ragged Poor in the East End during the cholera outbreaks. He held this post for only two years. In 1863 he secured a commission as a surgeon on the Army Medical Staff.

"It is here, Mr. Drake, that our history becomes more complete. Carroll was appointed as a doctor to the 28th Foot in Bristol, but applied for a transfer to serve in the colonies only four months after his enlistment. The application was accepted immediately, and he was appointed deputy director of the military hospital in Saharanpur, in India. There he gained an early reputation not only as a fine physician but also as somewhat of an adventurer. He frequently accompanied expeditions into the Punjab and Kashmir, missions that put him in danger from local tribes as well as Russian agents, a problem that persists as the Tsar tries to match our territorial gains. There he also earned a reputation as a man of letters, although nothing that would suggest the, well, let us say fervor which led him to request a piano. Several superiors reported him shirking rounds and observed him reading poetry in the hospital gardens. This practice was tolerated, albeit grudgingly, after Carroll apparently recited a poem by Shelley-'Ozymandias,' I believe-to a local chieftain who was being treated at the hospital. The man, who had already signed a treaty of cooperation but had refused to commit any troops, returned to the hospital a week after his convalescence and asked to see Carroll, not the military officer. He brought with him a force of three hundred, 'to serve the "poet-soldier"-his words, not ours, Mr. Drake."

The Colonel looked up. He thought he saw a slight smile on the piano tuner's face. "Remarkable story, I know."

"It is a powerful poem."

"It is, although I admit the episode was perhaps somewhat unfortunate."


"We are getting ahead of ourselves, Mr. Drake, but I am of the mind that this matter with the Erard has something to do with the 'soldier' attempting to become somewhat more of a 'poet.' The piano-and, granted, this is just my opinion-represents a-how best to put this?-an illogical extension of such a strategy. If Doctor Carroll truly believes that bringing music to such a place will hasten peace, I only hope he brings enough riflemen to defend it." The piano tuner said nothing, and the Colonel shifted slightly in his seat. "You would agree, Mr. Drake, that to impress a local noble with recitation and rhyme is one thing. To request a grand piano to be sent to the most remote of our forts is quite another."

"I know little of military matters," said Edgar Drake.

The Colonel looked at him briefly before returning to the papers. This was not the kind of person ready for the climate and challenges of Burma, he thought. A tall, thin man with thick graying hair that hung loosely above a pair of wire-rim glasses, the tuner looked more like a schoolteacher than someone capable of bearing any military responsibility. He seemed old for his forty-one years; his eyebrows were dark, his cheeks lined with soft whiskers. His light-colored eyes wrinkled at their corners, although not, the Colonel noted, in the manner of someone who had spent a lifetime smiling. He was wearing a corduroy jacket, a bow tie, and worn wool trousers. It all would have conveyed a feeling of sadness, he thought, were it not for his lips, unusually full for an Englishman, which rested in a position between bemusement and faint surprise and lent him a softness which unnerved the Colonel. He also noticed the piano tuner's hands, which he massaged incessantly, their wrists lost in the cavities of his sleeves. They were not the type of hands he was accustomed to, too delicate for a man's, yet when they had greeted each other, the Colonel had felt a roughness and strength, as if they were moved by wires beneath the calloused skin.

He looked back to the papers and continued. "So Carroll remained in Saharanpur for five years. During this time he served on no fewer than seventeen missions, passing more time in the field than at his post." He began to thumb through the reports on the missions the Doctor had accompanied, reading out their names. September 1866-Survey for a Rail Route Along the Upper Sutlej River. December-Mapping Expedition of the Corps of Water Engineers in the Punjab. February 1867-Report on Childbirth and Obstetric Diseases in Eastern Afghanistan. May-Veterinary Infections of Herd Animals in the Mountains of Kashmir and Their Risk to Humans. September-the Royal Society's Highland Survey of Flora in Sikkim. He seemed compelled to name them all, and did so without taking a breath, so that the veins on his neck swelled to resemble the very mountains of Kashmir-at least thought Edgar Drake, who had never been there, or studied its geography, but who, by this point, was growing impatient with the notable absence of any piano from the story.

"In late 1868," continued the Colonel, "the deputy director of our military hospital in Rangoon, then the only major hospital in Burma, died suddenly of dysentery. To replace him, the medical director in Calcutta recommended Carroll, who arrived in Rangoon in February 1869. He served there for three years, and since his work was mainly medical, we have few reports on his activities. All evidence suggests he was occupied with his responsibilities at the hospital."

The Colonel slid a folder forward on the desk. "This is a photograph of Carroll, in Bengal." Edgar waited briefly, and then, realizing he should rise to accept it, leaned forward, dropping his hat on the floor in the process. "Sorry," he muttered, grabbing the hat, then the folder, and returning to his chair. He opened the folder in his lap. Inside was a photo, upside down. He rotated it gingerly. It showed a tall, confident man with a dark mustache and finely combed hair, dressed in khaki, standing over the bed of a patient, a darker man, perhaps an Indian. In the background there were other beds, other patients. A hospital, thought the tuner, and returned his eyes to the face of the Doctor. He could read little from the man's expression. His face was blurred, although strangely all the patients were in focus, as if the Doctor was in a state of constant animation. He stared, trying to match the man to the story he was hearing, but the photo revealed little. He rose and returned it to the Colonel's desk.

"In 1871 Carroll requested to be moved to a more remote station in central Burma. The request was approved, as this was a period of intensifying Burmese activity in the Irrawaddy River valley south of Mandalay. At his new post, as in India, Carroll busied himself with frequent surveying expeditions, often into the southern Shan Hills. Although it is not known exactly how-given his many responsibilities-Carroll apparently found the time to acquire near fluency in the Shan language. Some have suggested that he studied with a local monk, others that he learned from a mistress.

"Monks or mistresses, in 1873 we received the disastrous news that the Burmese, after decades of flirtation, had signed a commercial treaty with France. You may know this history; it was covered quite extensively in the newspapers. Although French troops were still in Indo-China and had not advanced past the Mekong, this was obviously an extremely dangerous precedent for further Franco-Burmese cooperation and an open threat to India. We immediately began rapid preparations to occupy the states of Upper Burma. Many of the Shan princes had shown long-standing antagonism to the Burmese throne, and . . ." The Colonel trailed off, out of breath from the soliloquy, and saw the piano tuner staring out the window. "Mr. Drake, are you listening?"

Edgar turned back, embarrassed. "Yes . . . yes, of course."

"Well then, I will continue." The Colonel looked back at his papers.

Across the desk, the tuner spoke tentatively. "Actually, with due respect, Colonel, it is a most complex and interesting story, but I must admit that I don't understand why you need my expertise . . . I understand that you are accustomed to give briefings in this manner, but may I trouble you with a question?"

"Yes, Mr. Drake?"

"Well . . . to be honest, I am waiting to hear what is wrong with the piano."

"I'm sorry?"

"The piano. I was contacted because I am being hired to tune a piano. This meeting is most comprehensive with regard to the man, but I don't believe he is my commission."

The Colonel's face grew red. "As I stated at the beginning, Mr. Drake, I do believe that this background is important."

"I agree, sir, but I don't know what is wrong with the piano, even whether or not I can mend it. I hope you understand."

"Yes, yes. Of course I understand." The muscles in his jaw tensed. He was ready to talk about the withdrawal of the Resident from Mandalay in 1879, and the Battle of Myingyan, and the siege of the Maymyo garrison, one of his favorite stories. He waited.

Edgar stared down at his hands. "I apologize, please, please, do continue," he said. "It is only that I must leave soon, as it is quite a walk to my home, and I really am most interested in the Erard grand." Despite feeling intimidated, he secretly savored this brief interruption. He had always disliked military men, and had begun to like this Carroll character more and more. In truth, he did want to hear the details of the story, but it was dark, and the Colonel showed no sign of stopping.

The Colonel turned back to the papers, "Very well, Mr. Drake, I will make this brief. By 1874, we had begun to establish a handful of secret outposts in the Shan territories, one near Hsipaw, another near Taunggyi, and another-this the most remote-in a small village called Mae Lwin, on the bank of the Salween River. You won't find Mae Lwin on any maps, and until you accept the commission, I cannot tell you where it is. There we sent Carroll."

The room was getting dark, and the Colonel lit a small lamp on the desk. The light flickered, casting the shadow of his mustache creeping across his cheekbones. He studied the piano tuner again. He looks impatient, he thought, and took a deep breath. "Mr. Drake, so as not to detain you much further, I will spare you the details of Carroll's twelve years in Mae Lwin. Should you accept the commission, we can talk further, and I can provide you with military reports. Unless, of course, you would like to hear them now."

"I would like to hear about the piano if you don't mind."

"Yes, yes of course, the piano." He sighed. "What would you like to know? I believe you have been informed of most of the details of this matter in the letter from Colonel Fitzgerald."

"Yes, Carroll requested a piano. The army purchased an 1840 Erard grand and shipped it to him. Would you mind telling me more of that story?"

"I can't really. Other than hoping to repeat the success he found in reciting Shelley, we can't understand why he would want a piano."

"Why?" The piano tuner laughed, a deep sound that came unexpectedly from the thin frame. "How many times I have asked myself the same question about my other clients. Why would a society matron who doesn't know Handel from Haydn purchase an 1820 Broadwood and request that it be tuned weekly even though it has never been played? Or how to explain the County Justice who has his instruments revoiced once every two months-which, I might add, although entirely unnecessary, is wonderful for my affairs-yet this same man refuses an entertainment license for the annual public piano competition? You will excuse me, but Doctor Carroll doesn't seem so bizarre. Have you ever heard, sir, Bach's Inventions?"

From the Hardcover edition.

What People are Saying About This

Jeffrey Lent
An extraordinary piece of work. The Piano Tuner is a novel of journeys and the shifting grounds of perception, but at heart it is a story of the human urge to be absorbed fully into life, to cease to be a bystander, to be thrust into the essential dreamscape of human strivings. Daniel Mason's debut is shining and striking. He transported me thoroughly, well beyond the initial reading. Days later, the scenes shift and stir and agitate within me. This is writing of deep potency and resonance. Of beauty and pain and all things in between. -- (Jeffrey Lent, author of In the Fall and Lost Nation)
Arthur Golden
Daniel Mason has woven together an elegant and unusually engrossing story, one that offers the reader the best possible journey -- into a world that no longer exists. Rich, atmospheric, and evocative of the sights, smells and textures of 19th-century Burma, The Piano Tuner is an astonishingly accomplished first novel. I truly enjoyed it.

Meet the Author

Daniel Mason was born and raised in Northern California. He studied Biology at Harvard, and Medicine at the University of California, in San Francisco. His first novel, The Piano Tuner, published in 2002, was a national bestseller and has since been published in 27 countries. Daniel has also published a short story in Harper’s, on the life of the artist Arthur Bispo de Rosario. His most recent novel, A Far Country, was published by Knopf in March, 2007. Currently, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is at work on his third book.

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Piano Tuner 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
AK95 More than 1 year ago
Mr. Mason has crafted a well told story of Oriental intrigue set in the 19th century. This fluid and pulchritude novel is authentic and haunting. Nescience is never an issue because Mr. Mason has researched the novel so well. If you dislike historical fiction, you will dislike this as well. If you enjoy high quality story telling then read this book and be prepared to be taken on a journey of constant suspense and mystrey.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was extremely insightful and thought-provoking. The ending was my favorite part as it was both surprising and moving.This book is not for everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wanted to enjoy this book. The first few pages demonstrate that Mason is a more than capable writer, his sentences poetic and his tone believably 19th century. But very quickly it is apparent that this is going to be a long haul. The characterizations are flat. Dr. Carroll is a huge letdown when he finally makes his appearance (actually, he's absent most of the time even after his entrance), and Mr. Drake so quickly devotes himself to this milktoast Svengali that the reader concludes he never had a self to lose to the mysteries of Burma. The book ultimately feels like a depository for every fact about Burma that Mason was able to scrape up in his year of research there, thus he succeeds in creating a lush stage for the action but unfortunately casts his story with puppets.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was initially intriqued by this book but soon found that I was reading only so I could participate in the discussion. The book left me wondering what was real and what was a mirage. Not a satisfying read.
psl More than 1 year ago
I just couldn't recommend this to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most enchanting stories I have ever read. It is both exotic and suspenseful,lying somewhere between Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Piano Tuner by Mason It isa journey into a man who had lost himself. Beautifully written, the best book of our modern time
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this book "The Piano Tuner" is really an thrilling and breathe-catching novel... it was really full of adventure and full of hope... and i'm really touch from how he cares about he's wife and how patient he is... this book is my favorite from all of the novel's i've read..
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Guest More than 1 year ago
In October 1886, Edgar Drake receives an odd telegram from the British War Offices. The telegram contains a request that he leave his wife in London to travel the jungles of Burma, where he¿d find an Erard grand piano that is in need of repairing. The piano belongs to an army surgeon major by the name of Anthony Carroll, whose eccentric peacemaking techniques include music, poetry, and medicine. As Drake travels through Europe, the Red Sea, India, and into Burma, Drake meets all sorts of people and learns of their stories. The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason is a wonderful novel. Although slow to get through in the beginning, it starts to pick up when the journey begins. Each new cultural experience Drake encounters draws in the reader with the desire to know more. If you are looking for a book that you can¿t put down, one that is adventurous and touching at the same time, The Piano Turner is an excellent choice.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book that takes you into a new world full of beautiful colors and sounds. While doing this the book makes you keep THINKING right until the very end. I loved this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book taught me a lot of things about Burma and piano tuning, the mechanic and historical aspects of it. However, the story lacked passion and reasons for the events that ocurred. I was never interested in the main character. Definitely not a book for women, it seemed more like a teenage boy book, for those young men that are struggling to find their way. I recommend it to them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It seemed to me as if the author had decades to research and write the first 9/10ths of the book and then had a week to devise and write the ending! The last few chapters seemed as of they were slapped on by another author it is so separate and distinct in style and substance. I was disappointed especially after pages and pages of detail in the geography, history, etc. I would not recommend another reader going through 270 pp. to come to a conclusion with as much intelligence and relevance as a script from a reality TV program.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I accidently picked up The Piano Tuner as I browsed at B&N to find a nice book to take on a trip. I was in Singapore and Malaysia when I read it, and it made me want to go up north to Myanmar and Thailand too see what Edgar Drake saw... It's a great book. Written in a style that one rarely finds in modern American literature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book had such promise. The descriptions of the destinations along the way are seductive and fascinating as is Burma itself. The history described and the build up to the piano tuning event are wonderful, rich and descriptive. And then it falls down with a loud thud. The suddenness of the uprising and his arrest in no way equal the intensity of the other seven eighths of the book. Its as though the whole story ran out of steam an fell off a cliff. Why no in depth explanation of what happened in Mae Lwin. The accusations of Dr. Carroll being a Russian spy and a traitor are not believeable. The turn of events is too contrived. This book needs about five more chapters for explanation and resolution and it needs a different ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading where it took place - but the author hypes you up to believing a good ending like an eventual success to all that the Protagonist fought for, his return home would of made him a hero - I was up all night re-inventing the ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Daniel Mason has crafted a truly engrossing novel in The Piano Tuner. I was most impressed by Mason's ability to provide enough detail for the reader to visualize the people and events, but leave enough to the imagination that the reader is truly drawn into the story. I enjoyed the multidimensional love stories woven into the plot - Edgar Drake's love for his wife Katherine, for the power of music, for Khin Myo, for Dr. Carroll, and finally for the Erard itself. Drake's journey is as much a parallel of the Erard's into the Burmese jungle as it is the same journey. I finished this book wanting to read more, but curiously satisfied with the vivid images that remain in my imagination. I look forward to Mr. Mason's next contribution!