Mason, Daniel "The Piano Tuner" - 2002
Another book club read. Quite an interesting story, written by a young American author about colonialism, history, music, plants. If you like stories about this part of the world or set in a historical environment, you will enjoy this book.
In the late 19th century, a young piano tuner is sent to Burma to repair a rare piano. He leaves his wife in London and starts his travel through Europe, the Red Sea and India. He meets a lot of interesting people along the road until he arrives in the mysterious jungles of Burma.
I liked the description of the people, the scenery, the country, the culture, the politics, even the little stories inserted. I also liked the story itself, I just wasn't happy with the end because it left too many loose ends for my liking.
We had a great discussion because one of the members didn't like the book at all whereas the rest of us was quite pleased with it.
We liked it because
… it is about an area that little is written about and we thought his descriptive passages were very lucid and evoking, the language just sweeps you along
… there is a lot of symbolism and talk about the belief of the Burmese people.
… of the description of the people, the scenery, the country, the culture, the politics, even little stories within the novel.
… the author introduced so many other subjects, all the details about tuning and music, we kept being surprised that it was written by a man, loved the personality of the main character, he was sensitive and gentle.
… there were really good descriptions of Burma and the passage, cultural differences and colonialism.
… the three different parts of the book portray three different parts of his life, ordinary life, looking forward to something new, changing his perspective in the end.
I still enjoyed reading this book because I became interested in this part of the world and its history after reading “The Glass Palace” by Amitav Ghosh.
There are talks about this being made into a movie. Should be interesting.
From the back cover: "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."
We discussed this in our book club in December 2006.