84 Charing Cross Road- Helene Hanff [Review]

84-charing-cross-road-coverA timeless classic that every book lover should read at least once in their life. A page turner and a must have on anyone’s bookshelf. 84 Charing Cross Road is a book of letters between book lover Helene Hanff and Marks & Co of Charing Cross Road. At the beginning, the correspondent from Marks & Co is bookseller Frank Doel, soon though Helene Hanff is exchanging letters with other staff members and even Frank’s family. She starts her correspondence with the following letter:

“Gentlemen,
Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase ‘antiquarian book-sellers’ scares me somewhat, as I equate ‘antique’ with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes & Noble’s grimy, marked-up school-boy copies.

I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean second-hand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00 each, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?”

What initially starts out as a business correspondence, between the most reserved Frank Doel and the rather outspoken Helene Hanff, becomes a friendship through the letters exchanged to each other and their love of books. A friendship that lasts for 20 years. The letters start from October 1949 and stop October 1969.

As their friendship blossoms, Hanff starts to send food packages to the antique bookshop for Doel and its staff members during the war, and in return the people at Marks & Co send Helene a Christmas present, a linen cloth made by Frank’s neighbour. The mention of going to visit her dear friends in London is always mentioned in her letters but sadly never happens due to finances.

Guaranteed to cry  and laugh, every reader will love this short bittersweet story. In the revised edition of 84 Charing Cross Road, an account of what happened to Helene Hanff when she finally did manage to get to London a few years after the events of 84 Charing Cross Road is included named The Duchess of Bloomsbury. I will try and not spoil anything, but Helene Hanff as you might have guessed collected all the letters she sent and received from Charing Cross Road and published them as a book. Safe to say, it became a success and thus she managed to go to London after a few years. I will say no more, as there is a bittersweet ending to 84 Charring Cross Road.

A film adaptation of 84 Charing Cross Road was created , starring Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel and Anne Bancroft as Helene Hanff. I have seen the film and I will say this. It’s a sweet film, Anthony Hopkins is great as Frank Doel and the films does justice to the book. I would recommend anyone to see it, but read the book first as the book is better, of course! 😉

“If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much.”

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