Oh, what a lovely little book! 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff was published in 1970 and documents the twenty-year transatlantic correspondence of Hanff and Frank Doel, chief buyer at Marks & Co. Hanff was a lover of antique and obscure books that were difficult to find in the United States. What started at first as a buyer and seller relationship quickly evolved into a friendship with Doel, his wife and the rest of the staff at Marks & Co. Because of the food shortages in England, Hanff generously sent out food parcels that included eggs and meat. She even sent the girls nylon stockings which interestingly enough were not readily available. Her English friends also sent her lovely homemade presents, books and the recipe for Yorkshire pudding. They discussed a wide variety of topics that included books, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and the Brooklyn Dodgers. 84 Charing Cross Road has been made into a stage play and a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft.
Hanff's spontaneous and feisty personality shines through in her letters and she soon breaks Doel's quiet English reserve.
I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. The day Hazlitt came he opened to "I hate to read new books," and I hollered "Comrade!" to whoever owned it before me. (page 7).
In spite of knowing the ending, I still got teary-eyed at the end. This is indeed a precious little book about friendships that can develop even at long distances and the shared love of books. There's a lot of life lessons to be learned from it. It's a book to be savoured and reread a number of times. Highly recommended especially if you're a book lover.