“In the fleeting seconds of final memory, the image that will become Burma is the sun and a woman’s parasol. He has wondered which visions would remain – the Salween’s coursing coffee flow after a storm, the predawn palisades of fishing nets, the glow of ground turmeric, the weep of jungle vines.”
Daniel Mason’s debut novel begins with a letter from the British War Office. The year is 1886 and a piano tuner, Edgar Drake, has received a commission to travel to Burma to attend to a piano for a military doctor. Surgeon-major Carroll is obviously eccentric, but his demands are met because he has proved indispensable to keeping the peace in the area. As the story unfolds, Drake is swept up in a world so different from Victorian London and yet enticingly beautiful. Upon meeting Carroll, Drake finds a compatriot, a man who appreciates music and poetry just as he does. It is not long before Drake finds plausible everything that Carroll tells him.
What an incredible first novel! Mason has such a gift for creating a sense of place, amazing prose, and method of storytelling that slowly lures the reader in, without realizing they’ve been captured. In addition, the amount of research Mason is able to impart within the book shows the level of his erudition.
The ending will probably determine how one feels about this book. Do you like a nice, neat ending? Or do you appreciate an ending that leaves more questions than answers? You will find the latter in The Piano Tuner. I love books that make me think long after I’ve left the last page. I’m still thinking about this one…
4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2002