Friday, May 28, 2010

The Piano Tuner - Daniel Mason

This book has been on my TBR pile for a such a long time and I am so glad I finally picked up The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason and read it.

In late October, 1886, specialist piano tuner Edgar Drake receives an unusual request from the British War Office. He is asked to leave his quiet life and his wife in London and accept a mission which will lead him through the jungles of Burma to tune a rare Erard grand piano. The piano belongs to Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll, an enigmatic British officer, whose success in making peace in the war-torn Shan States is legendary, but, whose unorthodox methods have begun to attract suspicion.

Edgar, the soft spoken lover of music and piano's heads off across Europe, the Red Sea, India and Burma until he finally reaches the Shan States. En route he meets some fascinating characters and during his journey he reads the letters written by the Doctor to the War Office and becomes intrigued by the surgeon before he meets him. He starts to wonder if his life will ever be the same again after this journey which becomes an epic adventure, not least of all when he meets Doctor Carroll in person and sets to work on the piano. As well as falling in love with the country, the piano and the people Edgar also meets a beautiful woman who is mysterious and like no other woman he knows, Khin Myo. His enchantment with Khin Myo makes him hesitate when it is time for him to return to London, after his work is done. He has become forever changed.

This was such a well written book, I felt as if I was with Edgar all the way through his journey, which in many ways only really began when he reached Burma. The descriptions of the Burmese countryside, the breathtaking views and the larger than life characters were masterfully done. I read it in only two sittings and couldn't put it down. Nothing, however, prepared me for the ending which I hadn't expected at all.

The Piano Tuner is the tale of a simple, gentle man who loves his work and who is flattered when considered by the War Office to be the necessary expert required to make this journey to fix the rare Erard piano. He sees the world with a poets vision and is enchanted by all the new and exotic things he encounters along the way. I liked Edgar instantly and didn't want the story to end.

Have you read The Piano Tuner? What did you think of it?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind is set in post war Barcelona and tells the tale of Daniel Sempere and his widowed father who owns a bookshop in the city.

It opens in 1945 with ten year old Daniel waking from a nightmare in which he has forgotten what his mother's face looks like. In order to cheer Daniel up, his father takes him for the first time to a secret place only a select few people know of, "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books" which is hidden in the back streets of the city and houses thousands and thousands of rare books which are thought to have been lost or are out of print. The Cemetery is managed by a caretaker who looks after all the works there and when new initiates are brought to the place for the first time they have to follow strict rules. They must choose one book and be it's custodian for life, keeping it safe and making sure it does not get damaged or destroyed. Daniel is drawn to The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax and is so enthralled by it when he reads it, that he sets off in search of other works by Carax. What he discovers over the next few years is not only that Carax's works are rare indeed but that a person called Lain Colbert is buying up all the Carax books he can find and burning them. Daniel eventually does find another of Carax's books in which he discovers that the name Lain Colbert is also that of the character of the devil in this book.

By the time Daniel is sixteen, word is out in the literary community that he is in possession of what is believed to be the only existing copy of The Shadow of the Wind. Lain Colbert hears about this and seeks him out. Colbert cuts a terrifying figure not least of all because he has no eyelids or lips having been very badly disfigured in a fire. Daniel will not part with the book in spite being offered large sums of money for it from connoisseurs and now by Colbert himself. When this does not work Colbert resorts to threats which Daniel brushes off although he is terrified.

What follows is a journey of discovery into the life of Julian Carax. As Daniel meets with old friends and acquaintances of Carax he begins to find unprecedented parallels between Julian's life and his own. It is said by many who knew the young Carax that Daniel resembles him closely and staggering connections between the two begin to unfold, although they have no family or business ties. It becomes vital that Daniel finds out the truth about Carax not least of all to save his own life. Whilst this is happening the backdrop of the story depicts post war and pre war Barcelona and Barcelona under the rule of Franco which provides a testimony to some of the horrors of that time all of which blend seemlessly into the story.

The moment I picked this book up I was enthralled and I was also in floods of tears by page six! It didn't take long for me to realise that I would be trying to get through this book in one sitting but at the same time would not want it to end. Daniel, his father, his friend Tomas, the irrepressible Fermin Romero de Torres (the once street tramp rescued by Daniel and given a job in the book shop by his father), Julian Carax and Miguel Moliner are all adorable characters, I wanted to invite them to dinner and chat with them immediately! (What lively discussions we could have had!) Male characters dominate the book and are definitely the main source of interest and amusement. Female characters play the roles of temptresses, objects of devotion and pitiful doormats devoted to scoundrels, but, I liked them all, possibly with the exception of Clara who I thought was heartless, spoilt and unworthy of the devotion showed to her. There were a couple of moments that really shocked me which I hadn't seen coming but that may have been because I was reading so fast. I will definitely read The Shadow of the Wind again, next time though with more consideration and less speed. I wolfed it down so fast this time I am sure I missed lots of things a steadier read would uncover.

If you haven't read it already, go and get a copy right is probably the best book I have read this year.

Have you read it yet?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Coming up...The Piano Tuner and The Shadow of the Wind

I have been away for a little while working on a project which left me with no time to read, knit or blog. So, I am catching up on the reading and will be reviewing The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. My son said that I read too many girlie books so I thought I would put that right and I'm so glad I did.....Watch this space.....K