Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Piano Tuner

My mother gave me this book in Myanmar, which turned out to be the perfect book to read while I was in Myanmar.

Set in 19th century Burma, the British Army tries to keep a surgeon and Major, who has successfully negotiated and maintained peace in his outpost through creative and non-violent means, happy by fulfilling his request for an 1840 Erand grand piano. Months after its arrival, it becomes horribly out of tune, and the captain, Anthony Carrol, requests the services of a piano tuner.

In the late 1800s, travel to Burma took even longer than my 25 hour ordeal (I know! Instead, it took about a month by ship, train and horseback) so honoring either and especially both requests piqued the interest of the piano tuner hired for the job, Edgar Drake.

Through letters and official Army documents, the history and complicated situation of the British Empire in Burma is told. It's not the most entertaining thing to read, but the familiarity of some of the landscape and people sucked me in.

There is a story and plot that is worthy of its own discussion about complicated motives, allegiance and destiny, but the thing that impressed me the most was that this was written by a young man, out of college and taking off a year to study Malaria along the Thailand/Myanmar border, who wrote this before going to Medical School. Me thinks the boy has a bright future!

I'm not sure who to recommend this to. Anyone interested in Burma's history, for sure. And the folly of the British Empire (certainly, there are lessons to be learned from that!) but for most, I doubt the slow pace of this book would hold much interest. I'm glad I read it, though.

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