84 Charing Cross by Helene Hanff

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The Book (From Goodreads)

It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene’s sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.

My Thoughts

That’s a short blurb, but it sums up this short book nicely. It’s a pretty quick read, but that doesn’t subtract from its enjoyability. Ms. Hanff was a screenwriter with tastes for classic lit. She admits that she is not fond of fiction, and I think there is record of but two novels she requests, one of which was Jane Austen. I loved that the original punctuation and formatting, INCLUDING ALL CAPS, were kept, as it allows the reader to become well acquainted with her personality. (Writers have been doing this FOR QUITE A WHILE SO DON’T JUDGE. ‘K?)

I was so sorry that she didn’t made it over there until after the time spanned by the book. It made for such a bittersweet ending.

Mr. Doel is not the only one writing from the other side of the pond. If he had it would have afforded only a very narrow view of the bookshop and its staff. Various employees of Marks and Co. Books send their regards and there are a number of letters to Helene from Mrs. Doel and even one from the Doel’s neighbor.

One part that I found interesting was Doel’s reply to Helene comments on her feelings about how the British treated the Colonists during the occupation of New York City during the Revolution. He says that one of the shop boys didn’t ever know the British held America! It made me laugh, ’cause I never thought of the British forgetting their own history.

Anyhow, it’s a quick, pleasant read, and though there is a little of language, particularly on Ms. Hanff’s part, I recall it as being entirely clean other wise.

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2 thoughts on “84 Charing Cross by Helene Hanff

  1. This is one of my favourite books! It’s interesting to read your review. 🙂 I agree, the ending is bittersweet – it would’ve been so good if she made it to London and met Mr Frank Doel. She does visit London eventually though; have you read the sequel, ‘The Duchess of Bloomsbury’?

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