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The Lost Pianos of Siberia

A Sunday Times Book of 2020

Sophy Roberts

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Black Swan
05 April 2021
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A critically-acclaimed Sunday Times and Spectator book of 2020, and a major new literary voice.

Siberia's history is traditionally one of exiles, bitter cold and suffering. Yet there is another tale to tell. Dotted throughout this remote landscape are pianos created during the boom years of the nineteenth century. They tell the story of how, ever since entering Russian culture under the influence of Catherine the Great, piano music has run through the country like blood. How these pianos travelled into this snow-bound wilderness in the first place is remarkable. That they might still be capable of making music in such a hostile landscape is nothing less than a miracle.

The Lost Pianos of Siberia is an absorbing story about a piano hunt - a quixotic journey through two centuries of Russian history and eight time zones stretching across an eleventh of the world's land surface. It reveals not only an unexpected musical legacy, but profound humanity in the last place on earth you might expect to find it.
By:   Sophy Roberts
Imprint:   Black Swan
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 130mm,  Spine: 30mm
Weight:   322g
ISBN:   9781784162849
ISBN 10:   1784162841
Pages:   384
Publication Date:   05 April 2021
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Sophy Roberts is a British writer whose work focuses on the wild places from Papua New Guinea to the Congo. She began her career assisting the writer Jessica Mitford, and trained in journalism at Columbia University in New York. She regularly contributes to the Financial Times and the US edition of Conde Nast Traveler, among others. The Lost Pianos of Siberia is her first book.

Reviews for The Lost Pianos of Siberia: A Sunday Times Book of 2020

A noble quest to understand the dazzling respect for music embedded in Russian culture. * Country Life * Stories endure in this compelling debut. * Wanderlust * Beautifully constructed, clear-eyed and generous-spirited. * Will Atkins, author of THE MOOR and THE IMMEASURABLE WORLD * Not-to-be-missed travel. * The Tablet * Romance and tragedy, gulags and tower blocks, princes and oligarchs and of course tigers and pianos, Roberts captures all the wonder and heartbreak of an entire Empire in one feast of a book. * Ben Rawlence, author of CITY OF THORNS and RADIO CONGO * Absolutely intoxicating. Such vivid detail, rich atmosphere, heartbreak, and elegance. Sophy Roberts melds research and personal experience to trace the paths of political prisoners, convicts, and conscripts determined to find beauty in exile, and track down the regal pianos now scattered in villages, museums, and storehouses across the largest country on earth. Some cherished and some neglected, these pianos tell of the musical colonization of a continent, and their stories sing. * Jonathan C. Slaght, author of OWLS OF THE EASTERN ICE * What worlds this book traverses! From gilded recital halls to the haunts of Siberian tigers; from remote penal colonies to volcanic islands in the Bering Sea: I felt as if I had travelled through places I had only dreamed of, following these magical instruments through landscapes and histories so full of tragedy and hope. * Daniel Mason, author of THE PIANO TUNER * A thrilling adventure to the ends of the earth, where sunlight glitters in the snowdrifts and the strains of the exile's song floats through the air. Pack your suitcases for Siberia - Sophy Roberts' gorgeous prose will summon you there like a smell. * Cal Flyn, author of THICKER THAN WATER * Utterly fascinating and revealing to anyone who only knows Siberia through its Great Myth as a forgotten, frozen Nowhere. * Christopher Somerville * The Lost Pianos of Siberia is one of those magical books that captures the imagination and draws you into the beauty and majesty of Siberia. Idiosyncratic in style - part travelogue, part history, part detective trail - it is full of wonderful stories about human endurance through adversity and the transformative power of music in the most remote and forgotten outposts of this vast territory. A book to savour and remember. * Helen Rappaport, author of THE LAST DAYS OF THE ROMANOVS * A modern-day Freya Stark. * Tatler * Roberts' writing is beguiling. * The i * Utterly absorbing - a wonderful addition to the story of resilience, tragedy and triumph that are the hallmarks of Siberia. Roberts displays an empathy and understanding worthy of this deeply haunted, strangely fascinating land. * Benedict Allen * Roberts achievement is to vividly bring us into a hidden landscape that in an over-travelled world retains its mystique. Through her painterly depiction of the people she encounters, she infuses the epic with the intimate and reveals how sometimes looking is more important than finding * Business Post Magazine * Courage, patience, erudition and a sympathetic imagination... A travel book of rare quality. * Dervla Murphy * Captures Siberia's wildness, but favours its enchantments. * Times Literary Supplement * Beautifully written... A unique short history of Russia from Catherine the Great to Putin... A sense of the extraordinary marks every page. * History Today * Fascinating account of Siberia's horrific legacy told with great verve... Roberts is a wonderfully lyrical writer. * The Observer * A richly observed cultural history... thrilling. * New Statesman * Marvellous... a masterful example of modern historical travel writing * Independent * An extraordinary encounter with a wildly fascinating and astonishingly ill-known region... This is a wonderful book. * Sunday Times * What shines through in this book is Roberts' genuine, humane affection for and fascination with the people she meets in Siberia. * Literary Review * An exuberant, eccentric journey through Russian vastness, European history and Russian culture, The Lost Pianos of Siberia is a quixotic quest, a picaresque travel adventure and a strange forgotten story, all wrapped into one fascinating book. * Simon Sebag-Montefiore * An impressive exploration of Siberia's terrifying past. * Guardian * The ultimate quest for the oddest objects - pianos - in the most unlikely place - Siberia. But Roberts makes it much more than that, an elegant and nuanced journey through literature, through history, through music, murder and incarceration and revolution, through snow and ice and remoteness, to discover the human face of Siberia. I loved this book. * Paul Theroux *


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