It is easier to say what this book is not than to describe what it is. It is not a biography, nor a work of musicology. As an extended historical essay it is patchy and selective. It is partly about pianos and pianism, but would disappoint serious students of that genre. It is not quite a detective story — though there are, towards the end, elements of a hunter on the track of his prey.
It is probably best to begin the book with no expectations of where it will lead. It starts in the Palma workshop of one Juan Bauza in the 1830s as he fashioned an upright piano — crude, even by the standards of the day — from local softwood, felt, pig iron and copper. This, it transpires, was to be the instrument Frederic Chopin would be forced to use in the brief stay he and Amantine Dudevant (aka George Sand) enjoyed — or endured — on Majorca in the winter of 1838–39.