Tuesday, February 2, 2010

84 Charing Cross Road


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.

19 comments:

  1. One of my favourite books. I've read it umpteen times, I even own two copies & I have the audio book read by John Nettles (Inspector Barnaby from Midsomer Murders) & Juliet Stevenson. I love the look of your Penguin edition. Maybe two copies isn't enough...

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  2. I adore this book! I love the film too. I bought the lovely hardback Virago anniversary copy and I just love it. It's a lovely book to go back to time and time again, as you say.

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  3. I love this book, too! It's definitely time for a reread... have never seen the film though.

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  4. I love this book! It is such a great read. And definitely the type of book that you can read again and again. Great post! Cheers!!

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  5. I've read many good reviews like yours about this book. Guess it is time to add it to my TBR list; thanks for inspiring me :)

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  6. I love this book too! It is just so lovely to read - the warmth just radiates off the page! I have a very tatty copy, and would love to get the Virago anniversary edition...

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  7. This is one of those books I'd really like to read and yet have never been able to find a copy of! I'd also like to see the movie, but I'm holding off until I've read the book!

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  8. This sounds wonderful - something to add to my massive 'must buy' list!

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  9. You know I never read the book but I loved the movie. Sir Anthony and Anne Bancroft were perfect. Should've known it was a book first!

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  10. I remember reading this when I was living quite close to Charing Cross Road; glad it's still being read and enjoyed! Maybe I should revisit (the book, not the place).

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  11. This is a favourite comfort read for me, along with Nancy Mitford and Dodie Smith. Striking cover.

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  12. I love this book! I identify with Helene Hanff so much, and I love the idea of her developing a relationship with this one little shop - though I am also glad I live in the age of the internet, when I can get most any book I want from Abe. :P

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  13. Sounds like a great read - I love that quote!

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  14. A wonderful book that I really love as well. Weirdly it was one of the books my mother grabbed off her bookshelves for me to take into hospital when my soon-to-be husband was in there with a burst appendix (and peritonitis). Spoiler! I only just remembered Frank Doel's sad ending when I was parking in the hospital car park, so decided to take that one back home again.

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  15. Hello Mrs B

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I have added you to my blogroll as you have such entertaining posts and I see you're reading 'Miss Buncle'. I hope your enjoying it... it's such a gem of a book.

    I've been thinking of reading 'Charing Cross' for a while after re-watching the movie. I shall now have to add this to my TBR. Thanks for an inspiring review.

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  16. This sounds like a wonderful book-your review really motivates me to read it.

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  17. Hi Mrs B, thank you for stopping by my blog.
    I love the quote you have shared. It made me laugh when I thought of the amount of times I have caught myself talking to a character in the book I am reading.......I was pleased to find that it's not only me who does that then!
    I enjoyed your review and have not read this book, but, will definitely look out for it now. Thank you.

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  18. Check out the history of Marks & Co at
    http://www.84charingcrossroad.co.uk

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  19. This is one of my all-time favourite books about books. I've read it several times, and cried fat tears every time

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