Saturday, March 28, 2015

84, Charing Cross Road

84, Charing Cross Road
Helene Hanff
4.5 / 5

Published 1970

First Sentences
"Gentlemen: Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase 'antiquarian booksellers' scares me somewhat, as I equate 'antique' with expensive."
Publisher's Description:
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.

Dear Reader, 

How did this one little book break my heart so thoroughly?! It is only 97 pages long. And even those aren’t whole pages! I read this in little bits and pieces as I arrived at work every morning and drank my coffee while waiting for my computer to turn on. And it was an adorable copy, adorned with postmarks: 

(like my cute coffee mug?)

At first I found Helene Hanff rather off-putting in her rough edges and overly dramatic style, but I began to love her relationship with the Marks & Co. bookstore in London, particularly with Frank. Their rapport was almost immediate and so charming. And I cried through the last few letters. CRIED. When I felt as if I barely had any time to even get to know the characters! It’s incredible how much can really be said in a fairly short letter, taking into account of course all that is not written down. It’s one of the reasons I love writing letters. 

And that brings me to the reason I picked this book up. I’d had it on my TBR, but I was compelled into reading it by the announcement of an LWA Book Club! I am eager for April 12 to arrive now, so that I can discuss all of the aspects of this endearing book. I will be in Minneapolis on the first day of a conference trip, but I am still going to make this happen. I must emote with others over this book!

I don’t want to quote my favorite passage here like usual because there is so little content to discover already, but let me just say it involves pearl-handled fruit knives.

There is still plenty of time to read the book before the deadline, so if you are a letter-writer and if you don’t piecemeal it like me, you could probably have it read inside of an hour. I strongly encourage everyone to engage with this little gem.


-- Um, HOLY HELL. Is the audiobook of this made of SOLID GOLD? The prices for used copies run from $184.38 to $984.37! Unreal. 

84, Charing Cross Road

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