Book Review – The Piano Tuner

The Piano Tuner
By Daniel Mason
Picador Classic
Rating: ***

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 Erhard 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, and 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 . .

piano tuner.


surgeon major Anthony carrol
The Piano Tuner was the January pick at my local book club. I had never even heard of this book before even though it has been published in 27 countries.

The novel is about Edgar Drake an ordinary man living with his wife and his profession is a Piano Tuner. He lives and breathes pianos and is so passionate about tuning and fixing them. The army get Edgar in for a meeting to see if he would be willing to go on a mission for them. The mission is to get to Burma to fix and tune a Surgeon Major, Anthony Carrol’s piano. Edgar after much thought and deliberation decides he will do so, and his journey to Burma begins.

Edgar travels by boat and on foot, stays with lots of military men in remote villages, sees beautiful landscapes and is immersed into a world that he is not natural at being in. I felt like he was very uncomfortable at times but was also embracing seeing the world. His journey to Burma seemed to drag on for quite some time. It took me a really long time to get through this half of the book. The only part that was truly memorable for me was the bit where Edgar gets forced to go on a Tiger hunt with a group of army men. He doesn’t want to, he’s never even held a gun before. The hunt goes wrong and Edgar feels awful about what happens. This bit just seemed to really capture me and was very vivid in my mind to read.

I got to just over half way of the book, 255 pages in and still no piano and still no Surgeon Major Carrol, yet every character had some story or joke or facts about the Surgeon. It almost felt like reading The Wizard of Oz, he was some mysterious man that was built up to be this hero, this great man who could do all sorts of amazing things, all impressive stories however just like the Wizard of Oz, I felt that Surgeon Major Carrol was a massive disappointment he was arrogant and rude and I didn’t like him at all.

When Edgar finally arrives at his destination, the story finally picks up and I became more invested in the plot, now there actually was one. I really enjoyed reading about Edgar fixing and tuning the piano, I don’t know anything about pianos really but the writing was beautiful and the passion behind Edgar fixing this instrument captivated me. Other than the fixing of the piano he basically has some “almost” affair with a local woman, he goes for walks and looks at the beautiful scenery, he spends time with Surgeon Carol and he gets mixed up in all the war and politics that are happening in Burma on no fault of his own.

The Piano Tuner was a very slow burner for me and although the second half of the book picks up I thought the ending fizzled out to nothing as well. I wanted to enjoy this book a lot more than I did, I could tell I was getting bored as it took me about a month to read it all which is really unlike me. Although beautifully written in parts most of the book was just a long winded snooze. Unfortunately this is not a book I would read again or recommend, unless you love pianos and don’t mind reading 255 pages to get to the piano then this book probably isn’t for you either.

Have you read The Piano Tuner? What were your thoughts on this novel? Did you love the way it was a slow burner or like me did you get bored? I would love to know your thoughts. Thanks for reading. Katie x



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