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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  4,319 Ratings  ·  563 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
Paperback, 281 pages
Published March 12th 2002 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2000)
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Apr 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, music
Piano Teacher: Not bad... Mr. Connors, you say this is your first lesson?
Phil: Yes, but my father was a piano *mover*, so...

Much like Thad Carhart passing by Desforges Pianos: outillage, fournitures, I was intrigued first by the lovely cover (the hardbound edition) and welcoming title of this book. I wanted to enter through the curtained door, into a dusty world I did not know.

Inside, we find des pianos éventrés (disemboweled pianos), and Luc who modestly says, Je ne suis qu'un bricoleur (I'm on
Debbie Zapata
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: saturday
I've been thinking all day long how to write a review of this book that does not end up being a riff on all of my own piano memories that have been brought back to life while reading about Carhart's. I'll try to behave, I promise.

First of all, I loved the book. Carhart tells us of how he became curious about a piano shop in his Paris neighborhood, how he became friends with the owner, how he rediscovered his love for the instrument and eventually bought a baby grand and began once again to play.
Sep 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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!
Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
David Gilfillan
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with a keen interest in piano/keyboard instruments &/or Paris
The Piano Shop on the West Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier by Thad Carhart is small treasure, a somewhat limited but wonderful book in search of a broader audience, probably carried forth by word-of-mouth recommendations from fellow readers. In fact, I was delighted to find as many as 500 reviews at this site. Carhart's book represents a most gentle exploration of music, with the focus on the evolution of keyboard instruments, acting a historical backdrop on many compose ...more
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jennifer Nelson
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, music, memoirs
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
Rachel Knaak
I cannot rate this book since it was somewhat laborious for me to read due to the fact that I do not have a true passion toward pianos, piano music, or playing the piano.

The book is so beautifully written and was able to sporadically catch my attention again and again. It's just that the author is a reborn pianist in the literature, and his rekindled excitement with once again beginning to play brings him to write about everything pertaining to a piano; from his urge to want to purchase one to
Jan 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
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
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Book Concierge
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
EXCELLENT. A memoir of rediscovering the joys of the piano. An American writer, living in Paris, discovers a quaint little piano shop where the proprietor refuses entry to his shop where he repairs, restores and sells pianos to select customers. But once Carhart gets a proper introduction, he is taken into the fold and soon is matched with just the right instrument. Oh, this made me want to start practicing the piano again.
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Happened upon this little book and was enchanted by it. It left me wanting to go wandering through the antique/used things shops in Paris and, also, take lots more piano lessons. Wonderful book!
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
As you’d expect, this book is about a piano shop in Paris, but it’s a lot more. This is a charming read for a Francophile, which was my main attraction. You get an insider’s view of French daily life and the slow process (to an American) of being accepted into their inner circles. It’s full of warmth and humor and even more full of everything you probably don’t know about pianos: their history, how they work, their idiosyncrasies, how they are tuned, and the author’s personal experiences bonding ...more
Eugenea Pollock
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having abandoned piano lessons very early in my childhood, I was unsure that this book would appeal to me; however, I trusted the 5-star rating of someone whose literary judgment I respect and gave it a try. That was a good decision. Not only did I enjoy Luc's story (the shop owner), but the pianos themselves (be they a Steinway, Pleyel, Bosendorfer, Evard, Fazioli, whatever) took on life and personality. I did not expect that, but I loved reading about them. My favorite was one I had never hear ...more
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I didn't quite hate this book but I definitely wasn't as drawn to it as I am to most books. It was about pianos and the authors love for it, so as someone who's never been exposed to a piano and he beauty behind playing one, this book was pretty unrelatable. It was written well though, with beautiful descriptions and a lovely peek into quotidienne French life.

I do have to say, that this book definitely increased my awareness of why people love pianos so much and are so drawn to the instrument.
Clara GO
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Was just meandering through Goodreads when I happened upon this book, which, considering it was set in Paris and seemed to be about pianos, seemed like an interesting read. A few hours later I'm truly enchanted by this little glimpse into a slice of Parisian music-lovers' lives.

I'm a trained pianist myself, trained as in ten years of conservatory, so I've got a fairly good background on piano and musical history, nevertheless I was thoroughly pleased to learn some new facts about my great instr
Virginia Messina
Sep 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Rachel Pollock
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cnf
I absolutely loved this book. It may be simply that it came to me at the perfect time to read it--when i have already been researching this part of Paris for quite some time, when i'm also very concerned with the vagaries of the piano's history, and particularly as someone who, like the author, took piano lessons as a child/adolescent and is once again a piano-owner after many years' hiatus. I checked this book out of the library, but loved it so much i bought myself a copy because i wanted to h ...more
Jul 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kristine Gunnell
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
What a special little book! Read it a few years ago after discovering it by accident. Captures a certain something that to me is the essence of a certain section of the Left Bank. It felt as if I had walked by the shop many times during my Parisian rambles.
Feb 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
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.
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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...
“I wanted to love this piano. I wanted to invite music back into my life.” 8 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.” 5 likes
More quotes…