Monday, October 3, 2011

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

What an absolute treasure!  I can’t remember how long it has been that I was just ‘tickled’ by a book, probably since the first time I read Pride and Prejudice. 

Helene Hanff is a writer living in New York City and is disappointed in the physical quality of the books she can purchase there so she writes to a bookstore in London at
84 Charing Cross Road
to request a few books.  Thus begins a correspondence that spans over twenty years between the writer and the bookstore. The copy I read also had the sequel The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street which covers the authors visit to London.

Side note: I have to tell you a bit about myself so you will understand the next thing I am going to say about the book.  I was raised by a mother who loved literature and felt very strongly about giving credit to the author.  When she read books to us as children she would always read the Title and Author together.  I’m not sure how old I was before I realized the name of the book was not, “Go, Dog, Do by P.D. Eastman” or “Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey”.  When we moved from Maine to Arizona when I was 16 my mother and I played the “Books and Authors” game most of the way.  This is a game of our making which consists of one player saying to the other, “G.W.T.W by M.M.” and the other replying, “Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell” or “P.A.P by J.A” (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen).  You get it!  This also the reason the authors name is included in the title here on my blog.  Okay, so back to the book.  I was reading along, about halfway through and I realized I didn’t know who wrote the book, I quickly turned to the cover to see the author’s name.  When I saw Helene Hanff, I thought to myself, “Wait that is the main character’s name?  Is this real?” Imagine my delight when I read on the back cover that it was non-fiction.  This really happened!!  That’s make this book even better.

I wanted to add a few excerpts but all of them are too long.  Let me just say this, if you delight in books and reading, do not miss this book.

5 stars (Rated PG – very brief, very mild profanity)


  1. This is one of my favorite all time books, along with her "Duchess of Bloomsbury Street" and "Q's Legacy" (the final book in this "series"). I wrote to Helene Hanff before one of my trips to London. She answered! It was lovely. She died in 1997 at the age of about 76. Also, there is a film of the same name starring Ann Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. You should definitely watch it! I love that this is a true story! Also, when in London I have gone to 84 Charing Cross Road where there is a plaque commemorating Helene, the bookshop, and her book. Yes, such a wonderful book.....