There is thus far an imbalance towards modern literature on my ’50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About’ list, which probably won’t continue… but today’s entry is chosen because I’m rather hoping the suggestee might materialise in the near future…
A very dear friend of mine, Barbara-from-Ludlow, lent a copy of this book to me in 2004, and I adored it. It achieved what twelve years of piano lessons had not done; I fell in love with the piano. That all rather subsided when I failed my next grade, but time is a great healer – and now I am back to celebrate Carhart’s work!
On first reading, I thought this was a novel – but closer inspection reveaks that it is in fact (!) non-fiction – but of the sort which teeters on the edge. The best kind, in my opinion. Quite unusually, the ‘blurb’ on the back is accurate, and thus you shall be treated to it in full:
T.E. Carhart, an American living in Paris, is intrigued by a piano repair shop hidden down a street near his apartment. When he finally gains admittance to the secretive world of the atelier, he finds himself in an enormous glass-roofed workshop filled with dozens of pianos. His love affair with this most magical of instruments and its music is reawakened. Packed with delicate cameos of Parisians and reflections on how pianos work and their glorious history, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank is an atmospheric and absorbing journey to an older way of life.
Hmm… tails off a little in the truth stakes towards the end. Delicate cameos? Beg pardon? And I must confess ‘their glorious history’ is packed into one rather dull chapter which I skipped over. But aside from that, this is a beautiful novel, very much a ‘love affair’ with the instrument. Do check out Cornflower’s comments on this book, around the 7th March 2007. I does rather look like I’m stealing her blog wholesale… honest I’m not, guv!
Having said that, the discussion she started re:music lessons rings a bell. I had a nice teacher – Miss Lylah Goodwin, whose most unintentionally brilliant and far-reaching act MUST be lending me Miss Hargraves; more on soooon – but I HATED practising and lessons for a very, very long time. Our Vicar and Our Vicar’s Wife, never ones to overindulge their offspring, proved resistance futile, and I only stopped just before I came to university. Luckily, by then I liked it (my parents were RIGHT? Really?) and this very afternoon I took myself off to one of Magdalen’s piano rooms, to hammer out a bit of Bach. Lovely revision break,
I shall add a disclaimer for this book: don’t read it if you can’t play the piano and really, really wish you could. It’ll only frustrate you. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not excellent at the ivories by any stretch of the imagination – but if piano-playing is a deepset ambition which has never been fulfilled, this book can only wrankle. Otherwise, you’ll love it!
N.B. The cartoon may make no sense to American visitors. Google HSBC and NatWest. It may also make no sense to those with a more sophisticated sense of humour than I…