The Piano Tuner

Dreamscape Media. Feb. 2023. tr. from Chinese by Howard Goldblatt & Sylvia Li-chun Lin. 2:57 hrs. ISBN 9781666631173. $17.99. F
Taiwanese author Kuo’s multiple-award-winning novel centering on love, grief, and human connections is now available in audio in an English-language translation. Kuo’s beautifully written tale interweaves the stories of disparate characters: the titular piano tuner (and narrator), once a child piano prodigy; a man grieving the deceased ex-wife he barely knew; and a recently passed violinist whose brief life was filled with secrets. Together, the piano tuner and the widower work through past regrets and try to keep a music studio alive. The novel is resonant with Kuo’s passion for music and includes in-depth descriptions of pianos and the sounds they produce. Unfortunately, while the information on pianos is diverting, and the piano tuner’s backstory is moving, the novel falters in some ways as an audiobook. Narrator Fernando Chien chooses not to vary the voices, and with a nonlinear plotline, it can be challenging to distinguish the characters.
VERDICT Although the audio may present difficulties for some listeners, this novel is atmospheric and short enough that most listeners will walk away with food for thought or, at the very least, a deeper appreciation of classical music and piano.
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