84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

I saw this book discussed on a Modern Mrs. Darcy post as a book about books, one of my favorite subgenres. I picked it up now to attempt to fill my number row for my Alphabet Reading Challenge (it’s a new category Mr. Curiosity created this year). Sadly, it was much too quick a read for me (I read it in an afternoon) to feel good about counting. I’ll have to find another number book.

Published: 1970

Genre: nonfiction correspondence

Length: 97 pages

Setting: New York City and London, 1949-1969

Summary: Short version: Correspondence about books and life

Long version: Helene starts writing to Marks and Co. in an attempt to find out of print books for her personal library. She is in NYC and they are in London. They send her lovely books. In return, she sends them Christmas packages of items they would have had a hard time getting in post-WWII London. A friendship slowly builds between Helene and Frank, the clerk tasked with responding to her correspondence. As the years pass, Helene also corresponds with other clerks in the bookstore.

Final thoughts: I managed to read two sweet books in a row (the previous one being Upside-Down Magic). Helene allows a lot of her personality to show through in her letters. She starts off so formally, but her passion for books won’t let her stay that way. It takes Frank, on the other side of the ocean, much longer to unbend and show some personality. That’s not surprising. A – he’s British, and B – he’s representing his place of work. It just makes it that much more delightful when he does unbend. The Christmas presents help. Helene gets close enough to the staff that they start inviting her to visit. She makes plans to do just that. However, every time she gets enough money to visit, some emergency arises and she has to use her traveling money. She never does make it to visit, which I found sad. Friends go, and she corresponds with the staff so she hears all about it. If I spent that many years (the book covers 20) writing to people that I considered friends, I would want to actually see them in person. Helene didn’t have that same drive to travel that I do.

I didn’t realize until I got to the epilogue that the book was nonfiction. I just figured it was like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society book, but no. The letters were actually exchanged. As a bonus, there’s a sequel, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. It was also made into a movie with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.

Title comes from: The address of the book store Helene wrote to

Reading challenges fulfilled: none because I read it in an afternoon

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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1 Comment

Filed under Book review

One response to “84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

  1. Pingback: Book Review: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (4/5) | Taking on a World of Words

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