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

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  3,089 ratings  ·  409 reviews
Walking his two young children to school every morning, Thad Carhart passes an unassuming little storefront in his Paris neighborhood. Intrigued by its simple sign — Desforges Pianos — he enters, only to have his way barred by the shop's imperious owner.
Unable to stifle his curiosity, he finally lands the proper introduction, and a world previously hidden is brought into v
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Paperback, 268 pages
Published March 12th 2002 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2000)
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Books About Paris
37th out of 434 books — 410 voters
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Community Reviews

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Patrick
A surprising little gem of a book which proves you really can't judge a book by its cover. I read it looking for something different without thinking the subject matter would be very interesting. Within just a few pages I found I was transported back to my time in Paris, exploring it's side streets, neighborhoods, and the wonderful (despite what you may have heard) people living there. I've lent this book to 6 people since I read it and to a person they have all loved it. Read this book!
Carol
I truly loved this book!
The Piano Shop deals more with the technical aspects of repairing, restoring and re-awakening a love of music in Thad Carhart, the author of this memoir. Parts of the book read like a novel, a story about a man finding again his love and pleasure in creating music - and other parts of the book read like a technical manual, detailing the various processes of repairing and restoring pianos. I love how Carhart was slowly allowed to become a friend of Luc after getting refer
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Valerie
What a delightful book! Admittedly I am a piano lover, but I don't feel that that is a prerequisite to enjoy this book. It is nonfiction, but I felt like I was reading a novel, with well drawn characters and relationships. The author manages to do this with minimal words.
This book was very descriptive of the restoration of pianos but was also the author's journey of his rediscovery of the love of pianos and music. Not just a book for piano lovers, anyone with an appreciation of the passion some
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Jennifer Nelson
Sometimes I think that the measure of a good book is the change that it brings to your life: a change in perspective or a truth grasped, a new vigor for life, a new desire kindled or rekindled, or a fresh challenge to take. This is one of those books to me. I have always loved music and pianos but this book rekindled something in my life that had dwindled to a small flame and turned it into a blazing, cheerful fire.

I would rather not get into the details of what this book is about...many review
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Carol
Feb 05, 2011 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
This short memoir centers around Carhart's discovery of DesForges Pianos, an atelier in his quartier where pianos are restored and refurbished. Once Carhart gains the proper introduction, he enters into the world of DesForges and a growing friendship with its proprietor and master craftsman, Luc. Carhart also rediscovers his own long-buried passion for pianos and soon selects and purchases a piano from Luc, then begins taking piano lessons. Embedded within the narrative are warm and intelligent ...more
Chrissie
To appreciate this book you have to think and see the world through music. I tend more toward the visual arts. I THOUGHT this book would be much more about the French people and their culture. I thought it would be more biographical. Instead, it is about music. I have a friend who is very talented in music and she plays the piano. It IS what she does. She teaches and gives concerts. Her husband too. She has perfect pitch - a gift that allows one to "produce and name a note, any note, from a void ...more
David Gilfillan
One of the great moments in life is finding an unexpected gem of a book. I picked this book up at a market stall, without quite knowing why, and read it while on a long plane trip. I do not play the piano, cannot read music, and am somewhat tone deaf, probably not the reader for which the book was intended! But I loved it, apart possibly for one very technical chapter about piano construction, for its passion, its honesty and its ability to take one into another world. There is a purity in the a ...more
Rebecca
Sep 15, 2013 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rebecca by: Kimberly
4.5 stars

Truly lovely.

No need to play the piano (though by the end you just may want to!) nor have an affinity for the charms of Paris (though who doesn't?), this book gently invites, then entices, then embraces the reader into the warm and loving core of the exclusive group who truly love the piano.

Mr. Carhart deftly weaves his own memories and mundane-errands-turned-miraculous-experiences with components of piano mechanics and history and makes them all beautifully cohesive. This book feels m
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Rebecca
Although classified as a non-fiction memoir, Carhart's brilliant work reads like a novel in its vivid character descriptions and joyous reverence for music. The author pulls us into his Parisian existence, in the center of which lies Desforges Pianos, a small, but magical atelier which houses passions for history and music. We follow Carhart on a hero's journey, all the while learning immense amounts about the making and history of pianos.

The key figures in the book are characters but not carica
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Tracy
I liked this quiet little book. It's one man's rediscovering his love of music after a running across a wonderful old piano shop. The shop brings together reflections on French culture and social mores, the history of the modern piano, and the narrator's varied experiences of music, from the childhood piano lessons that turned him off to music to a new chance to engage with the instrument as an adult. One of those books that surprised me, since I never thought I'd be reading about the constructi ...more
Suetheartist
"Life is a river and we all need a boat that floats" one of many quotes that captured my heart. Is it a life lesson? Rather poetic in the way he refers to places or things in romantic Paris. Loved the trip through literature. Very articulate

"there is no such thing as music note by note just as there are no such thing as a book word by word. We have to accept that things are ambiguous. ....he might have been talking about all of life not just music. "

I seem to float on the words. Enjoying the lit
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Lauretta
This is a wonderful book on so many levels. First, the development of the relationship between the author and the shopkeeper is lovely. Then you learn so much about pianos, piano repair/restoration, and the Gallic esprit that it makes for a memorable read. The icing on the cake for me is that I truly bonded with Carhart around his experience of piano lessons and recitals when he was young and his adult interest in the instrument (not as a vehicle for performing, but for the immense pleasure he r ...more
Melody
Sep 13, 2007 Melody rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who love pianos as instruments, objects, and producers of sound.
This lovely little memoir is sometimes tantalizing in its vivid detail (the smell of fresh bread on a Paris Streetcorner), love of the instrument (you'll learn more than you ever dreamed about the perfect piano and those on the search to one-up the Steinway family), and quirky characterization (anyone in the piano shop ... once the doorkeeper actually lets you in).

In its passion for pianos, though, it also sometimes sounds dull and clunky. Moving through some chapters--like the chapter on the ph
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Ginny Messina
This book was recommended to me by my wonderful goodreads friend Lisa. It's a delightful and unique memoir of the author's experience with a quaint piano shop in his Paris neighborhood. The story follows Thad Carhart's (he's an American writer) relationship with the shop's local clientele, his own experience in buying a piano and taking lessons, and also touches on his memories of studying piano as a child. But for me, it is the piano lore woven into these stories that is the best part of the bo ...more
Jared Della Rocca
In the past, I've frequently explained my enjoyment of working at Bennington College as being derived from the passion of the students. Regardless of their individual pursuits, it's the deep interest with which they discuss it with anyone willing to listen that is intoxicating. And I always draw a parallel to the enjoyment I had watching a document about dancers at Julliard. I have watched very few dance performances, but the documentary brought forward the intense preparation of the dancers as ...more
Dan Russell
A wonderful book that makes you both understand the hidden structure of a Parisian neighborhood (very hard to become a neighbor unless you were born there) AND makes you want to get back to practicing the piano. Luc, the atelier’s owner, is a guide to the history and art of the piano. He is also the soul of the shop that becomes a small hangout place for the people who love pianos when the work is done. The writing is lovely, moving with a melody and rhythm that’s rare for memoir. It brings toge ...more
Katy
I read this book after I had returned from a year in Europe and all it made me do was want to go back. Desparately. It also made me want to start playing the piano again. Unfortunately, up to this point I have accomplished neither of those goals, but the book itself is absolutely wonderful. I love stories about people discovering communities and becoming passionate about things. They make life seem that much more fascinating.
Julie
What an intriguing book! Thad Carhart, an American who has lived in France for many years, decides to buy a piano, and this quest leads him to a little shop in his Left Bank neighborhood. It turns out that he needs an introduction from a customer to get into the back room where all the pianos are, but once that is accomplished, he not only purchases his piano, but also embarks on an adventure, which encompasses his experiences with piano lessons, a master class, and the most expensive piano in t ...more
Michelle
Charming memoir written by an expat in Paris who stumbles upon a quirky and unusual piano shop near his home and rediscovers his love of playing. The importance of music and the piano specifically in this man's life is strongly felt and you actually wonder how it was he could've abandoned it for so long! It's interesting how many times the author talks about some drab room being uplifted by piano playing or a mini-concert and I don't think this is intentional. It's clear how much beauty this red ...more
Kristine Ashton Ashton
An intriguing window into someone's love affair with the piano. I never knew so much was involved in pianos and their history. It never occurred to me that Mozart and Beethoven were using cutting edge technology. Admittedly, I found myself skipping over a lot of the details, but the author's fascination with the instrument and the community shown through.
Mona
Rediscovering this book after a decade. It still holds a very special place in my library. A story written beautifully of an american writer living in Paris who discovers a little hidden treasure, in a piano repair shop on the left bank.

For any music lover, or just anyone who needs a good book to read. A very good and inspiring book.
Lou Gillies
I was recommended this book as I'd just started to learn to play the piano myself (although unlike TC, I had no previous history with it), and it came at a time when I was really struggling (with quite simple stuff), thus reminded me of why I actually wanted to play in the first place. I totally fell in love with the book from the first page. It's part travelogue, part biography, part history. The writing is exquisite and removes you from reality straight into the streets and buildings of Paris ...more
Ruthiella
My friend Lars lent me this book. Part autobiography, part history of the piano, part history of Paris, this was a lovely book. Much of the detail regarding the physics of how a piano actually works and music is appreciated was lost on me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Deasy Yolanda
Some of my blogger friends might still remember all the hype from me on how I really wanted to read this book. And voila! I'm now finished with this baby ;)

So how to put it...

This book is an autobiography of Thad Carhart, using first-person narration from his perspective, recounting on his long lost passion to piano. The book begins when he comes across a unique atelier in his neighborhood and thus tries to enter the place, even though he is unwelcome at first. Then luck is on his side, one of h
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Beth
I was surprised that I didn't love this little memoir about pianos, but I supposed I am really done with piano playing.
The vignettes about life in Paris were fun.
Helen
A little gem of a book that tells you all you need to know about pianos without having to read thick, encyclopedic tomes. You now know the most expensive piano in the world, the Fazioli, made is in Italy. The Sultan of Brunei has one. You find out that Beethoven demolished many pianos with his vigorous playing (I didn't know that).

And you get to meet real Parisians, those who would not otherwise deign to know Americans.

After reading this book, I'll never look at my grandfather's black upright
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Ahf
Sweet story about a man falling in love again with pianos. Takes place in Paris. Okay read while I was there.
Correen

With great writing skill, Thad Carhart writes of his love for pianos stirred by a piano shop that did not encourage him to enter. He needed a recommendation from one of the shop's clients in order to be shown the inventory and treated as a prospective client -- he did not refer to those who entered as customers. Carhart rediscovers his love of the piano, tying him to a community of fellow piano enthusiasts. His love of the piano moves him as a writer to explore its history, design, significant c
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Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Simply a beautiful book. Short and exquisite.
Beth
I was looking at the giveaway books at my Jazzercise class for an appropriate book to read while cruising the River Seine. I grabbed "The Piano Shop on the Left Bank" without even reading the cover. It was free and title sounded appropriate. Soon, there I was docked between the left & right banks. Walking around a little and having a bus orientation of Paris. So it was very easy to imagine the author's 1,000 foot flat and an atelier where pianos werew repaired. I hadn't realized it was non-f ...more
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Thad Carhart, author of Across the Endless River, is a dual citizen of the United States and Ireland. He lives in Paris with his wife, the photographer Simo Neri, and their two children.

More about Thad Carhart...
Across the Endless River

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“I wanted to love this piano. I wanted to invite music back into my life.” 3 likes
“The effect is captivating as all of the tones mix, like a watercolor with hues swirled together, and lovely carrying notes long after the fingers are lifted from the keys.” 3 likes
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