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The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

June 25, 2009


The Piano Shop on the Left Bank is a non-fiction book about, guess what, pianos. Though not just pianos as objects or even pianos as musical instruments, but pianos as that central thing which can bring together people of vastly different lives and can create friendships and joy.

When I picked this book up I was first of all intrigued about a piano shop, as  I have never been in one even though my parents have always had a piano, and also because it was set in Paris, which I haven’t been to yet either. This, I thought, is going to be a whole world of new and wonderful things.  Still, I was surprised at how enthralling the book was.  Literally, I couldn’t put it down! T.E. Carhart does a wonderful job of not just chronicling how he becomes interested in the Piano shop and eventually friends with it’s owner and it’s various patrons, but also his own life story as it relates to pianos and some general piano history. All of this is interlaced so wonderfully and not forced upon you. If he begins to tell of a certain memory or piano fact it is because something that is happening in the present timeline has alluded to it or it will help to explain his reaction to certain circumstances.

My favorite part of the book is T.E.’s story, the story he tells of how he grew up taking piano lessons with such enthusiasum, of how that enthusiasum damped as expectations for excellence and performce grew, and how the piano was eventually left behind for him as he moved into adulthood. Those are all feelings that I have felt myself, being a former child of many many piano lessons, piano teachers, piano practices, piano recitals and eventually, piano frustrations and so I haven’t touched a piano in a good 15 years.  Perhaps there was something inside me yearning for the sound of the piano again, something that drew me to this book because when I read of T.E’s journey to relearn the piano as an adult, not for show or for concerts, but just because he enjoyed it, I felt my heart lift. I really had enjoyed playing the piano, and playing the flute which I later took lessons on, and the guitar which I was trying to teach myself. I enjoyed creating music and like T.E., I didn’t want to create music for others to judge, I wanted to create music for me. To read of a man, and many other men and women whom he met, feeling the same thing half a world away, and not just feeling that but doing something about it, gave me such great joy.

I don’t remember all the little piano details and dates and histories which Carhart enriches the text with, I don’t remember all of the other characters  names, what street or area of Paris it’s set it or anything of that sort, but I think I will always remember the joy with with Carhart shared his journey of finding music again. I will always remember how it resonated with me and gave me hope that not all things once gone are lost. And to me, that is what takes a book from the realm of one you enjoy to one you want to tell the world about and that you love.

So good job T. E. Carhart, good job!

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 26, 2009 2:47 pm

    I agree. Love the book, and inspired to play!

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