Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Title: 84, Charing Cross Road
Author: Helene Hanff
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: 1970
Source: Owned

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a book lover.
What's the Story?:

From "It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene's sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years."

My Two Cents:

Okay, fellow book lovers, if you haven't read this book, you must! Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Helene Hanff, an American, strikes up a letter writing relationship with a cadre of booksellers from one particular bookstore in London, England. The book is a series of letters back and forth between Helene and the booksellers and being that all parties have a love for the written word, most of the letters are about books. It is glorious! It made me think of a time and yearn for it where there was no such thing as being able to order a book online and having it shipped to you rather quickly (no human contact required). Ordering a book online or even picking out a book from your local bookstore can be a relatively solitary affair these days.

First off, I love books told in letters or journal entries. I am not exactly sure why but I have always liked these kinds of books. I think that part of it is that I really think you get some deeper insight into a character or non-fiction person (as Ms. Hanff is). You get to know who they are a little bit better. Hanff really does form a great bond with some of the booksellers at Marks and Co. They become friends and it's mostly due to the mutual love of books. What book lover couldn't find something to love about that?

There is something really intriguing to me about writing handwritten letters. I think it would be so cool to get these really funny letters all about books (Helene is fantatically witty)! I know that I certainly don't do it much anymore. I write handwritten thank you cards for any gifts that I receive but just sitting down and penning a letter to my friends doesn't cross my mind much at all. Why go through the trouble of writing a letter that will more than likely be stale once it gets to its destination when I can type out an email?

All book lovers will find something to love about this book!



  1. Yay for Helene! I read this book a couple of years ago and completely fell in love - it made me laugh, it made me well up a bit, it made me desperate to dive back into my pile of books with renewed enthusiasm... So glad you loved it too! :)

  2. I've been anxious to get my hands on a copy of this. Glad it was a hot with you as it has been for so many.

  3. Hi Meg. I loved your review of 84 Charing Cross Road, because it brought back so many happy memories of reading it myself. It has been an age since I read it, but it remains one of my all-time favourites. It's such a beautiful story, and to know that it is true makes it all the more poignant.

    I'm lucky enough to live in London and when I first moved here 12 years ago, one of the first places I sought out was Charing Cross Road. It's in the heart of London's West End, and is famous for its independent bookshops. Although some are still there, alas Marks & Co, as well as many others, are long gone. To add insult to injury, No. 84 has now been knocked through and is part of a large restaurant. Whenever I walk past, where there are now noisy tourists tucking into burgers, I imagine the shelves stacked high with beautiful books, and Frank sat quietly at his desk in the back, writing another letter to Helene.


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