Review: Helene Hanff’s “84 Charing Cross Road” & “The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street”
I needed a book to remind me of what I love, and this was the one to do it. Helene Hanff was a New York writer who began ordering antiquarian books from a bookshop in London; the first book of this double edition is the collected correspondence of 20 years between Helene and the staff and friends of Marks & Co. Booksellers (particularly Frank Doel, the chief buyer). HH’s letters are full of zesty NY slang, and the comparison with the restrained, dry British wit of her pen pals is most entertaining. While the first book is a hymn to bibliophilic relationships, the sequel is a love letter to London: the publication of 84 Charing Cross Road was HH’s ticket there, and this rapturous memoir ensued from her literary and social forays. A simply fabulous double-whammy, laugh-out-loud funny, charming, a testament by and for book worshippers. I can’t express either my delight or my praise enough, just read it.
Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf
Time & manner of reading: Bookended bed-reads, with great delight and some almost tears
Where it went to: Home via MM, I think
Reminds me of: That Guernsey epistolary novel – now overshadowed by this real, even wittier correspondence
Who I’d recommend it to: Booklovers losing hope in the face of the digital onslaught
Also reading: The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene; The Reivers by William Faulkner