Friday, 1 March 2013

Review: 84 Charing Cross Road

84 Charing Cross Road/ The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
Helene Hanff

I've had a bit of a rollercoaster week what with being made redundant and all. Emotions running wild, bemoaning the loss of my income, adoring the sudden free time, wondering whether the arts is really a sector I want to get in get the picture. The delightful Ellie recommended 84 Charing Cross Road, which I recently purchased, as a good pick me up. Well, she wasn't wrong. I read this book in one sitting yesterday (oh unemployment, how I sort of love thee) and I feel thoroughly cheered. My copy also includes The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, which I'm assuming most copies do, so I'm just going to talk about them together.

There is just one thing I need to throw out there before I begin: Helene Hanff - babe, right?!


84 Charing Cross Road is a collection of letters between Helene Hanff in New York and various people in the Marks & Co Booksellers in London, most frequently with FPD (Frank Doel). Helene orders books from Messers Marks & Co. and through her correspondence strikes up quite a friendship with those in the shop (and their families). It is a truly happy and uplifting book, apart from one bit which hit me like a ton of bricks and had me sobbing (emotional rollercoaster remember people, no judging).

I love how much Helene's personality comes through the letters, I think that is what makes this book so amusing. Even in the face of Frank's initial stoicism she never holds back but throws herself onto the page and into their lives.

'I've made arrangements with the Easter bunny to bring you an Egg, he will get over there and find you have died of Inertia.'

The second half of the book is Helene's diary when she is in London. She has just published 84 Charing Cross Road as is finally visiting England and all the people she knows so well but has never met. It really is a very good read. She has a brilliant perspective on life and on books:

'I despair of ever getting it through anybody's head I am not interested in bookshops, I am interested in what's written in the books. I don't browse in bookshops, I browse in libraries, where you can take a book home and read it, and if you like it you go to a bookshop and buy it.'

Can you imagine my excitement when I realised this had been made into a film? With none other than Anthony Hopkins? Oh, be still my beating lit nerd heart.

Anyway, fret not people, I am feeling much better now and today I was offered a job *shakes ass in excitement*. I think I've found a new favourite book about books which I can see myself dipping in and out of many times.


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