In a Nutshell:
I am finding in my journey reading that there are many books such as this one; Uptight Brit who has lived quietly and within structure and expectation goes somewhere exotic and flourishes. They open their mind, their heart and their experiences because of a new, strange land. This story is really no different. But it does have some unique elements that make the story more interesting. First, the main character, Edgar Drake, is a piano tuner of very specific kind of piano called and Erard. He is asked by the British army to go to the Shan states in Burma and tune this kind of piano at some British jungle outpost. The piano is in the jungle by request of an eccentric Major Carroll who has found that music was a way to communicate and negotiate with the Shan tribes there. With England colonizing the area, political tensions between the natives and the army are a constant theme in the book. He describes the perilous journey not only for this quiet piano tuner, but retells the journey of the piano to the jungle outpost. As he makes his home at this outpost, Edgar gets acquainted with the natives, and Major Carroll, and some of the tribal kings. He starts an odd relationship with a beautiful Burmese woman that has some sexual tension that never really gets resolved. She signifies all that is exotic and lovely about Burma to Edgar, and in the same way, just as untouchable.
There is a dreamlike, lyrical quality to the writing of this book. That being said, I felt like the writer left a lot of holes in the plot for my taste. Edgar leaves England and his wife to do this mission for Queen and country, but as he is sucked into the new exotic culture. There is no more talk of his life or wife in England, at all. The political web in which he finds himself in is complicated for the reader and seems important considering it becomes his undoing. But I found it to be confusing and not really interesting. The interactions with the piano I think were the most interesting and textural parts of the book. And as I have had time to think on it, this out-of-place, stately piano in the middle of the jungle that loses it's tune on account of the humidity, gets gunshots through it's wood, and becomes warped might be a symbolic parallel to Britain colonization of Burma itself. And the more they try and use it and fix it, the more things unravel. It JUST doesn't belong there, just like Britain. I did like the beautiful, descriptive writing of Burma itself. It was languid and exotic, like Burma itself. There were merits to the book, but I don't know if I loved it. There were parts that were tiresome and confusing. I liked it-didn't love it.