When Tomura first hears a piano being tuned, his life is altered forever. He feels the sounds deep inside him, transporting him to the shadowy forests that surround his isolated mountain village. He cannot shake it, that feeling that he’s found his calling. Tomura will tune pianos, whatever it takes.
The Forest of Wool and Steel fell into my life at exactly the right moment. Unassuming and beautiful in its simplicity, author Natsu Miyashita has crafted a novel that is as unexpected as it is universal, tackling issues that plague so many of us through the delightfully elegant and surprisingly personal art of piano tuning.
Self doubt and impostor syndrome plague Tomura as he progresses through his apprenticeship, guided by three very different piano tuners who teach him much about both the craft and himself. His goal may seem insubstantial to us non-musical types, but it could so easily be substituted for any of our own ambitions – lofty or otherwise – and it’s near impossible not to be swept up by his perseverance, dedication, and quiet strength.
When Tomura’s work ethic comes dangerously close to obsession, there’s a series of wonderful side characters (most notably the tuners themselves, as well as twin clients Kazune and Yuni) who are able to balance things out, though the focus always remains on what Tomura can learn from any situation. Turns out there’s inspiration for piano-tuning everywhere you look!
Immersive, elegant, and utterly beautiful, it’s all too tempting to compare The Forest of Wool and Steel to a captivating piano performance (for my part, I recommend Erroll Garner’s More Than You Know) but to stay true to the novel itself, its probably more apt to thank the tuner, rather than the pianist, and it’s safe to say that Miyashita has done an absolutely glorious job.
Natsu Miyashita’s The Forest of Wool and Steel is out now, available through Penguin