The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts
Siberia’s story is traditionally one of exiles, penal colonies and unmarked graves. Yet there is another tale to tell.
Dotted throughout this remote land are pianos – grand instruments created during the boom years of the nineteenth century, and humble, Soviet-made uprights that found their way into equally modest homes. 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 testament to noble acts of fortitude by governors, adventurers and exiles. That stately instruments might still exist in such a hostile landscape is remarkable. That they are still capable of making music in far-flung villages is nothing less than a miracle.
But this is Siberia, where people can endure the worst of the world ― and where music reveals a deep humanity in the last place on earth you would expect to find it.
When I first heard about The Lost Pianos of Siberia (Doubleday) by Sophy Roberts it immediately shot straight to my most wanted books. This is a beautiful book that takes you on a journey across Siberia.
Sophy Roberts debut book is breathtaking in its sheer beauty not just in the landscape and the history of this incredible landscape but of its nature. For travel journalist Roberts takes a look at the Pianos and how they and their owners made their journey to the far corners of Siberia with many going into exile. There is something about Russia and pianos going back to the 1800’s from here like seeds scattered in the wind the pianos made their journey many with their owners going into exile.
For me one of the most poignant parts of the book was when Roberts went looking for the very piano owned by the Romanovs before they were killed in 1918. But there is so much more to this book than you first think when you look at the title. This is much more than just about looking for lost pianos it is a travelogue as Roberts travels across this vast land to the far corners of Russia across barren lands and taking journeys on ships.
Imagine the winters in Siberia and what that does to such an instrument such as the piano, what it does to the keys of the piano and the very fabric that is the wood that holds it together.
So many of the pianos Roberts went in search for have so much history attached to them from the early days of the influence of the piano across Europe. Many of the pianos Sophy Roberts went in search for were never found purely as many never wanted to discuss the past. This just adds to the mystery of each one of the pianos.
The real aspect of this wonderful book is a look at the country, the history and its people and the flora and fauna of Siberia. It is a book that reads so beautifully and one that I am looking forward to listening to as an audio book during these difficult days.
The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts was published by Doubleday and was published on 6th February 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.