Thursday, May 29, 2008

Review: 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road is a delightful collection of letters chronicling the 20-plus years’ correspondence between screenwriter Helene Hanff and Frank Doel, bookseller of Marks & Co. It begins with a request in which Helene inquires after a series of books she wants to buy, saying that Barnes & Nobles’s sells “marked up, grimy schoolboy” copies of the books she wants (my, how things have changed!), and continues through a friendship between Hanff and Doel in which the two never meet. As their lives grow and change, Hanff and Doel’s friendship remains the one constant.

It’s a special friendship, and Hanff is sharp-tongued and witty, making her a delightful narrator. I have a feeling that not all of the letters are preserved here in their entirety, but they’re reprinted word-for-word, including Hanff’s idiosyncratic punctuation—no doubt due to the fact that she typewrote all of her letters, but nonetheless, the letters show Hanff’s personality and her rather abrupt way of corresponding.

It’s a short book (just about 100 pages), but it’s a special book, nonetheless, about a shared love of books. 84, Charing Cross Road is a must-read for any bibliophile. Its too bad that a woman in the subway accidentally tipped soda into my bag and all over my copy of this wonderful book...


Terri B. said...

Oh...I did so love this book. I've got a copy hiding somewhere in my collection. Glad you liked it too :o)

Susie said...

I read this a couple of years ago and gulped it whole in one evening. If you are interested in a sort of sequel, check out The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by the same author, which is basically a journal she kept when she was finally able to visit England. She met Frank's family, and a few other wonderful people along the way.

Rose City Reader said...

This is one of my all-time favorite books. When I was in high school, I read it probably six times.

The movie with Anne Bancroft is great. I just watched it last month for the firt time.


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