Cover design by Marion Dorn It all began in 1949 with a letter enquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to ...Show synopsisCover design by Marion Dorn It all began in 1949 with a letter enquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84 Charing Cross Road, London. As Helene's warm and witty letters gradually break down the reserve of bookseller Frank Doel, a friendship across the miles flourishes, lasting twenty years. No doubt it would have continued, but in 1969 the firm's secretary wrote to let Helene know of Frank's death. 'If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road', Helene later writes to a London-bound friend, 'kiss it for me. I owe it so much.Hide synopsis
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I came upon the work of Helene Hanff via the film, 84 Charing Cross Road, which I found to be a delight. I purchased the book to see what the actual basis of the film had been. It's a brief book of letters between a book buyer and a book seller, one in New York and one in London, over a period of three decades after World War II. The insights I gained about how that experience differed for people in the U.S. and people in the U.K. were numerous.
The realization of highest import to me was the fact that I rarely ever hear anyone discussing books they have read, or want to read, in-depth any longer in my own community. Even among my friends, a literate and articulate bunch, the discussion of the written word has disappeared. Everyone is so focused on multimedia entertainment that they have forgotten the slower-paced pleasures of books and the subsequent sharing of those books with others in conversation.
The appreciation for the qualities of thought and content in books glitters throughout this brief volume. For anyone who loves books, Hanff's compilation of letters is itself a love letter to the world of letters and literature.
I adore Helene Hanff. Her books, they kinda overlap, but this is the lynchpin of her "Anglophilan (is that a word ?. . . well, it should be)/ I Love NY" collection, that includes: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, Underfoot in Show Business, The Apple of My Eye, and a few more . . . I think.
A collection of letters, this book is a speed read, and is about Helene's protracted, platonic, loving relationship with an antiquarian British book seller, through 20 or so years of correspondence. It all starts as business, but Helene's sense of humor and endearing charm, create something much more enduring.
At the start of the book, Helene is barely getting by as a writer, with a love for literature. WWII is happening in the background . . . and she resorts to ordering books from England, to get nice quality copies of the books she loves so well. That's how she meets Frank. Their letters are humorous, and despite the fact that the subject matter is almost always about books, the personalities of both letter writers reveal themselves.
This is a quick read and simply delightful.
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