84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (final thoughts)
One evening last week I was supposed to go out with some friends, but at the last minute our plans changed and I ended up staying at home. I had speedily finished my previous book in preparation for going out and I wasn’t really in the mood for starting something all that long. So, I plucked 84, Charing Cross Road from my bookshelf and curled up on the couch. A couple hours later, I uncurled with a lump in my throat. Why did I leave that book unread on my shelf for so long?
In 1949 Helene Hanff wrote to Marks & Co, a used bookstore in London, inquiring about some titles she could not find in New York. At least she could not find suitable copies in New York. Frank Dole responded to her first letter and thus began a 20 year friendship that revolved around a love of books. 84, Charing Cross Road is a collection of letters not only from Helene and Frank, but also from various bookstore staff, Frank’s wife, and even his elderly neighbour.
Can I just say that I loved this little book? I loved Helene’s outrageous letters and literary references (most of which flew right over my head, I’m sure). I loved Frank’s proper British responses, especially when his sense of humour began to peak through. I loved the family updates from Nora, Frank’s wife.
Being such a short book, clocking in at just under 100 pages, I did not expect to get so pulled into the story, or the characters’ lives. I especially didn’t think that I would turn the last page with a colossal lump in my throat.
I’ve heard that the 1987 movie is just as delightful, so I’ve already added my name to the hold list for it at the library. I’ll let you know how it holds up!
My rating: 9/10