Slow meanderings and shimmering, musical beauty. The piano tuner by Daniel Mason, book review, #aw80books Myanmar

​I have an audiobook hangover that I can’t seem to shake of. All because of this book. I’ve changed country, started a new book, and yet the melancholic, slow pace and the exactitude of the descriptions  of this book’s narrative voice are still in my head. A lot of what I see Isee through “the Piano tuner”, now. So beware, this is a powerful book
A book I haven’t exactly read, but listened to, on boats, on public buses, every where on the roads of Myanmar. And I think it is a book extremely well fitted to the audio form. It is very slow paced, very descritpive, it sometimes reads like a oral tale or a long prose poem. I don’t know if I would have liked it so much in written form, or in any other context. But it was just the perfect book to listen in this last week.

This, as the title depicts, is a story about a piano Tuner. Edgar Drake, a quiet, happily married man  who is commissioned by the British Army to travel to Burma to tune an Erard Piano in a outpost of the British Armed forces, a small village of the Shan States, because the Officer posted there, Dr Anthony Carol, a mysterious man but very successful with the local population, has requested it. Drakes leaves England – half reluctantly, half drawn by an irresistible attraction to this exotic Land he doesn’t quite understand himself, and discovers the enthralling beauty of Burma, at the time of the third Anglo-Burmese war. The rest of the story, as well as Major Carol’s motivations and character, couldn’t be discussed here without spoiling the plot, but it is safe to say it involves a woman, war and politics, and music.

I’ve just discovered that Mason, the author, wrote this after traveling to Myanmar – which is absolutely not a surprise to me: he is incredibly skilled at depicting the atmosphere, the colors, the scents, in short Myanmar. In fact, it was almost erie to listen to one of his depictions and see exactly what he was writing about – the vegetation, a woman under an umbrella – a few minutes after. A strange game of deja-vus between the book and real life, as one turned to the other.

So if you want a trip to Burma without leaving your sofa, read this. This is a shot of every color you might find there, from the Thanaka powder the women paint their faces with to the shimmering glances of pagodas in the distance. And more than that, it is also a great story of attraction and love and conflicts. The only annoying thing, probably, is that it was written by Mason when he was still a medical student. Now, that kind of statistics, much like olympic athletes winning medals at 19 years old, is just showing of really. But when the result is “The piano tuner”, it’s worth it.


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