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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
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*        = Good, with reservations


****The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

by T. E. Carhart

Reviewed January 8, 2002.
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2002 (#5, Biographical Nonfiction)
Vintage, 2001.  242 pages.

I thought this was another American In a Foreign Place book, since it is by an American telling about an aspect of his time in Paris.  However, the Left Bank seems a natural setting for him.  It turns out that he lived in Paris as a child, and occasionally he even forgets to translate French statements English.

The beginning of the book does accent the foreign setting.  Before Mr. Carhart can get into the back room of the Piano Shop on the Left Bank in order to purchase a used piano, he must get a recommendation from a current client.  Up to that time, the proprietors pretend that they don’t have any pianos to sell!  This is definitely not an American way of doing business!

After his admission to the sacred back room of the atelier, the book becomes a meditation on music and pianos.  The shop owner restores old pianos, and Mr. Carhart learns much about pianos, the craftsmanship of making them, and what makes a piano sing.  After he purchases a piano, he begins taking lessons, looking for someone who will help him appreciate the music for his own enjoyment, rather than trying to make a concert pianist of him.

He talks about his experience with piano lessons as a child, expressing disgust with the annual recitals in which he was forced to participate.  I was delighted to hear such a perspective, as I gave up piano lessons myself mainly to get out of having to play in the yearly Piano Festival.

The book is full of information about pianos, thoughts about how music fits into a life, and interesting characters he meets in the back of the piano shop on the Left Bank.  Truly a delightful book. 

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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