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84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (final thoughts)

August 4, 2010

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

Soundtrack Saturday
Buy One Book and Read It 5/6

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2010 12:07 pm

    Oh, I’ve been wanting to read this one for so long! I stumbled across the film a year or so ago while browsing through Netflix, immediately added it to my queue and watched the whole thing with a hand on my heart. Definitely a film — and book! — for literature lovers. Thanks for renewing my desire to get this one; glad you enjoyed it!

  2. elliek permalink
    August 4, 2010 1:03 pm

    Sounds great! I’ve added it to my Reminder List!

  3. August 4, 2010 4:30 pm

    Every time I read this book, I marvel at how engaging and delightful it can be, when really there’s not much to it. I love how important they all become to each other over the years, and I always, always cry at the end.

  4. August 4, 2010 11:54 pm

    I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for ages as well. Lovely review – I have my next couple of books planned out due to them being library books etc, but I will read this after. After reading your review, I think it would be wrong not to.


  1. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff | Iris on Books

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