Monday, August 23, 2010

[Book Review] 84, CHARING CROSS ROAD by Helene Hanff

Beth reviews 84, CHARING CROSS ROAD by Helene Hanff (Moyer Bell Limited, 1970).

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I’m not much for non-fiction. It just doesn’t draw me in the way fiction does—maybe because it is so close to life? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I fell in love with this non-fiction book when a customer called for it. After placing myself on the waiting list, I was thrilled to read it cover to cover!

84, Charing Cross Road is a collection of letters written between Helene Hanff and the staff at Marks & Company of London in the early 1950s through the end of the 60s. Thanks to these letters, we are able to see friendships and compassion form for those who never meet face-to-face.

Helene contacts the shop to fulfill her need for “good, clean copies” of books at a reasonable rate. Her letters, often sarcastic and witty, are at odds with the serious and proper English gentleman’s replies. Over the years she continues to purchase books by mail, but also sends gifts of food during the rationing in England after WWII. A friendship that spans decades ensues—covering children growing up, getting married, and friends passing away. Although Helene grows and changes throughout the years, she always has 84, Charing Cross Road.

Beth, Highland Branch

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