I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I'm not quite sure what I was expecting with this one. I saw 'Siberia' and the cover and requested it without another thought. But as a result, I am equally as unsure about how to review this book.
The author's journey through Siberia on a quest to seek out these long lost treasures. Not exactly what one thinks about when they hear 'Siberia'. Instead one thinks of the Gulag, exile, and mass, unmarked graves.
The author was on the hunt for a different kind of history altogether - though Russian history itself is a main character. You can't have the histories of these instruments in such a bleak place without context of what makes the juxtaposition so beautiful at times.
Yet even when the travel is about pianos, at the same time it really isn't. There is just as much, and more, about the people and their times, culture, lives. The book is basically in chronological order from pre-Soviet, to Soviet, to post-Soviet. From there it is also divided up by region as the author treks to and fro across the massive continent. A stop in Yekaterinburg where the Romanovs came to their violent end is also on the agenda as she travels through the region - and it came to be that these parts I was almost most interested in than the piano search. These slices of life that people are carved out, those who willingly live here, I could not get enough of those passages. I am a Minnesota girl through and through, I will take winter over any other season no contest and yet Siberia...there's no way. Even I could not live there. I have so much respect for those who can, and do, continue to make their homes in one of the harshest climates on earth.
The author details how pianos came to be so beloved in Russia, and Siberia specifically. From large and grand pianos, to sturdier but simple uprights, she seeks out as many as she can find. That these instruments even survived the trip to and through Siberia to begin with is a testament to those that loved them. That some survive still, so many centuries to decades after they were constructed, is another.
Recommended for those with an interest in the history of Russia.