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The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

This month, the Fiction Book Club read The Piano Tuner, a highly successful first book by Daniel Mason published in 2002. 

An abridged version of the publisher’s summary: “In October, 1886 Edgar Drake receives a strange request from the British War office:  he must travel to the jungles of Burma, where a rare Erard grand piano is in need of repair.  The piano belongs to an army surgeon-major whose unorthodox peacekeeping methods have brought a tentative quiet to the Southern Shan States, but have elicited questions from his superiors about his loyalty. On his journey toward Burma, Edgar encounters prophets and thieves, soldiers and tale-spinners, and an enchanting woman as elusive as the surgeon-major will turn out to be.  Edgar encounters a place more mysterious and dangerous than he could ever have imagined.”

Everybody in the book group loved the book, except for one person in each discussion session.  Whereas the majority of the readers enjoyed the romantic and mystical nature of the story, the other two thought Edgar’s adventures were unrealistic and therefore, unbelievable.  Characters in the story and plot points were ambivalent in areas, which made for very interesting discussions!  One reader was certain that the surgeon-major was a spy, which the others hadn’t considered; but once they learned why, they agreed it was possible and they appreciated the new point of view. Another reader commented that she had read the book before, but totally missed the point.  It took the discussion group to illuminate things for her.  A few others said they may read it again after having the discussion.  In the background we enjoyed a video of a woman playing Mendelssohn for an hour on an 1840 Erard grand piano, the type that Mason features in his book.

Currently the The Piano Tuner is on the Staff Picks cart in CD format and the book is in the adult fiction area.  Two people who have listened to the CD highly recommend it for the quality of the narration.  If you haven’t tried listening to a book on CD, this would be a great one to start with.

Join us on the evening of December 13 or the morning of December 15 to discuss the next book in our “Around the World in 180 Days” series, “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway.  Even if you have read it before, read it again. You will probably gain a deeper understanding of Hemingway’s work.  Pick up a copy at the reference desk and attend one of sessions prepared to share your thoughts.  We look forward to seeing you!

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