Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Review: 84 Charing Cross Road
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Summary: This slim volume reproduces the 20-year correspondence between Hanff (a script-reader and later scriptwriter/author) in New York and Frank Doel of Marks & Co. Booksellers at 84 Charing Cross Road, London.
My thoughts: What an utterly charming little book! It made me curious to know more about Helene Hanff and I must get my hands on the semi-sequel, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, where she finally makes it over to England. I was very sad that she didn't make it there while Frank Doel was still alive and the shop was still open. That's how you know it's nonfiction - no fiction author would have let that happen! :-)
I could really relate to Hanff wanting to see the England that she'd read about - I've been to London twice and I still want to go back! I love reading British novels and coming across so many famous places in their pages. I also feel the same way about New York City.
Hanff had a great sense of humour. I particularly enjoyed the letters where she was raging at Doel over some book or other that she considered sub-par (the one that sticks out in my mind is a rant against an abridged version of Samuel Pepys' diary). Despite her bluster, she was so kind to the people at the shop, sending them care packages during post-war rationing.
The book belongs to another time that seems much kinder and gentler (whether it really was or not, we could still use a dose of it) - actual written letters, amazing customer service, a 20-year friendship. It's also a time capsule of England during and after WWII, all the way up to the 60's (Frank remarks that he quite likes the Beatles, if only the fans wouldn't scream so much).
I think I might even read it again, it was such a quick one and such fun. And I've requested that my library buy the movie with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.