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The Piano Tuner    by Daniel Mason order for
Piano Tuner
by Daniel Mason
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

A demanding British surgeon-major has managed to import an expensive piano to the jungles of Burma, and now it needs tuning. The diffident tuner selected for the job is in for the adventure of his life.

As Edgar Drake sails away from Britain in 1887, each step of the long voyage brings him farther away from civilization as he knows it. He cannot speak the language of the peoples around him and so is completely dependent on the few English-speaking persons he meets. As he writes lengthy letters to his wife about this strange world, with customs, culture and dress totally foreign to him, he realizes how unmoored from his former life he has become. Only the surgeon-major, Anthony Carroll, presents a lifeline, a learned connection to his past. This man has, it seems, mastered both the colonial and the native life. He speaks the languages of biology, botany and philosophy as well as those of the various tribes in the area to whom he ministers. But then, as it turns out, nothing is really as it seems.

This is a first novel by author Mason, and it succeeds beautifully. We are caught up in this strange world and can see how Victorian prejudices and ignorance grate against native lives and how, in their turn, the Victorians are changed, some not for the best. No one emerges unscathed, but nevertheless there is beauty if one learns how to appreciate it.

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