The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a non-fiction book so much. Non-fiction isn’t always my thing, and I often find autobiographical-type books either pretentious or boring (or both) but this one was neither. Imagine my surprise!

Naturally, I was drawn in by a book about pianos — one about a second-hand piano shop in a city as big and as globally central as Paris. Some neat pianos could go through a place like that!

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank book reviewCarhart tells the story of how, after living in Paris with his family for a few years and walking by the same piano shop (atelier) many times a week, he plucked up the courage to go inside.  As a reader, we then get to follow Carhart’s journey as he buys a piano and wedges it into his family’s tiny Paris apartment, rediscovers playing, and makes new friends through the piano shop.

It still took me two library renews to get through this (have I mentioned that I struggle with non-fiction?) but I enjoyed having this around to pick up in between my fiction books. It was a nice, real-world balance to the teen fantasy I’m so fond of, and it’s nice to read about regular folks (non-professional musicians) who love music, too. Carhart is a talented writer and does a good job of keeping the reader interested. There was one point in the book where he started to talk about the history of how a piano came to be what it is (how it’s made), which I found a tad boring… it kind-of stalled the personal narrative momentum he had going. But that’s ok, it picked up again.

The wonderful thing about library books is that you occasionally get to know something about the others who have read the copy of the book before you. In this one, Carhart is at one point discussing the more technical aspects of music theory  — something about diminished 5ths or 7ths and minor keys  — and there were pencilled-in margin notes, very neat, by someone who said something like, “There’s no such thing as a diminished 7th but we forgive you because you’re such a good writer.” Cute!! (As I’m sure you can tell, if you know music theory, my knowledge in this area is seriously limited so please understand that this is something *like* what the note said. Don’t ask me if a diminished 7th exists. I have no idea.)

Anyways, I highly recommend this one to those who might find the topic of pianos, or rediscovering a love of playing and learning as an adult, interesting.