The Piano Tuner

ISBN 10: 0330492675 / ISBN 13: 9780330492676
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Synopsis: "The Shan Hills," Edgar repeated and stared past the temples that stood like soldiers in formation to the mountains, which rose abruptly from the plain and seemed to hover in the sky. He thought of a river that ran through those hills, and how somewhere, hidden in the darkness, a man waited who perhaps stared out at the same sky. Who had yet to know his name. 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.

Review: Daniel Mason's debut novel, The Piano Tuner, is the mesmerizing story of Edgar Drake, commissioned by the British War Office in 1886 to travel to hostile Burma to repair a rare Erard grand piano vital to the Crown's strategic interests. Eccentric Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll has brokered peace with local warlords primarily through music, a free medical clinic, and the "powers" of common scientific instruments, much to the dismay of warmongering officers suspect of such unorthodox methods. Drake is an introspective, well-mannered soul who, once there, falls in love with Burma and stays long past the piano-fixing to aid Carroll's political agenda. Drake's arduous journey to reach the outpost, however, takes far too long (nearly half the book) and the plotting is rather heavy-handed at times (one night, Drake learns of a mysterious "Man with One Story" who rarely speaks, and the very next morning the Man tells all to Drake). The story is ambitious, the language florid and sure to please, but the dialogue and melodrama are sometimes tedious. While out on the town with Carroll's love interest, Khin Myo (who enchants Drake), Mason offers the townspersons' view of Drake:

It is only natural that a guest be treated with hospitality, the quiet man who has come to mend the singing elephant is shy, and walks with the posture of one who is unsure of the world, we too would keep him company to make him feel welcome, but we do not speak English.... They say he is one of the kind of men who has dreams, but tells no one.
Drake's complexity is thin; perhaps the beauty of Burma takes over any real need for introspection. Despite these quibbles, The Piano Tuner is a memorable achievement. --Michael Ferch

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Title: The Piano Tuner
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