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The Piano Tuner – Daniel Mason

This novel has been languishing in my pile for quite some time – at least 12 months. I am not sure why I didn’t read it earlier. I think it might be the browness of the cover.

Here is the blurb …

On a misty London afternoon in 1886, piano tuner Edgar Drake receives a strange request from the War Office: he must leave his wife, and his quiet life in London, to travel to the jungles of Burma to tune a rare Erard grand piano. The piano belongs to Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll, an enigmatic British officer, whose success at making peace in the war-torn Shan States is legendary, but whose unorthodox methods have begun to attract suspicion. So begins the journey of the soft-spoken Edgar across Europe, the Red Sea, India, Burma, nd at last into the remote highlands of the Shan States. En route he is entranced by the Doctor’s letters and by the shifting cast of tale-spinners, soldiers and thieves who cross his path. As his captivation grows, however, so do his questions: about the Doctor’s true motives, about an enchanting and elusive woman who travels with him into the jungle, about why he came. And, ultimately, whether he will ever be able to return home unchanged to the woman who awaits him there… Sensuous and lyrical, rich with passion and adventure, The Piano Tuner is a hypnotic tale of myth, romance and self-discovery. It is an unforgettable and haunting novel.

This is a slow moving novel – a bit like the journey to Burma itself. It is full of wonderfully evocative descriptions of scenery, food and smells. It feels hot, sticky and totally foreign.

This novel is also a bit of a mystery. Why a piano in the jungle? What exactly is Anthony Carroll up to?

Edgar, our piano tuner, is quite an innocent or at least single-minded and completely ignorant of the shifting political sands around him. Burma is a country at war – torn form within by rival tribes and fought over by the English, French and Russians who are all attempting to increase their empires.

This is a beautifully written novel (although I found the final third a bit slow going). All of the characters are convincing, but the best part is the world created by Mason – it feels very tangible.

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