The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier

This charming memoir (304 pages) was published in March of 2002 by Random House. The book takes you to a Paris neighborhood. Melissa read The Piano Shop on the Left Bank and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier

Thad Carhart

How does an American move past the chilly barriers in his French neighborhood to become part of the community? He plays the piano, n’est-ce pas.

Tucked into a cozy, shop-lined street on the Left Bank in Paris is the alluring and mysterious ‘Desforges Pianos: outillage, fournitures.’ When Thad Carhart enquires at the shop about buying a used piano, he’s unceremoniously shuffled out the front door by a man who appeared through a mysterious door at the back. The author returns several times before finally getting a personal introduction and being welcomed into the holy of holies: the backroom stocked with pianos in all stages of their lives.

He cultivates a friendship with Luc, the piano restorer, through their shared love of the instrument and its history. And this slowly unfolding memoir traces their relationship in parallel with the storied past of the piano. Carhart takes us deep into the piano’s development and mechanics with chapters on how the instrument is made and how it’s tuned. But there are personal reflections, too, as he recalls his childhood in Paris, begins piano lessons anew, and welcomes the piano that’s stolen his heart into his small Paris apartment.

This is a tender book, its narrative moving back and forth in time and capturing distinctive moments; it’s like flipping through a scrapbook that contains personal photos and other remarkable and ordinary snippets of memory. Carhart is a keen observer, and his prose will transport you immediately to the Paris streets he loves so well. It’s a treat to get an intimate look inside the spaces where tourists and expats are often excluded.

Warning: You’ll be tempted to think that a piano might be just the thing you need in your life, and you might be right.

Motionless, he held the final chord for a long moment, and we felt — I could almost say watched — the harmony rise into the light-filled cold of the atelier. — Thad Carhart

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