Sunday, February 7, 2021

84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff

 Here's some nice winter music.


What a delightful, charming book!

Not very long, written in the second person in the form of letters between the author and a manager of a bookstore in London.

Starting in 1949, Helen Hanff, a writer for the Ellery Queen TV series and aspiring Broadway Theater playwright, orders books from her Manhattan apartment, from a man who is the chief buyer of Marks and Co., an antiquarian bookstore of rare and old books on 84 Charing Cross Road, London. Their letters start off professionally, but gradually get more and more personal as the years go by.

By the time the bookstore man, Frank Doel, dies in 1969, other bookstore staff and Doel's wife were also corresponding with Hanff, as well as an elderly neighbor. By the 60's Helene, Frank and the rest are firm, fast friends, yet they are never destined to meet in person.

There is no plot, but the reader (or listener as in my case) is drawn in to the individual lives of all the correspondents as well as their families.

At first I thought this was a nice piece of fiction, but it is non fiction and after Doel's death, Hanff published their letters and launched her writing career.

And I must say, if you are an avid lover of books, you will enjoy reading about all the books that Helene Hanff orders and Doel's efforts to find particularly obscure and hard to find editions.

The story is not long. I was on my way to stay with my parents in Niceville, Florida from Texas. I started the audiobook as I was leaving Jackson, Mississippi and finished it by Pensacola, Florida.

If you need some cheer to liven up these dark, unsure days, take a break and read this sweet book.

Meet my new baby.  Josh and I went to a reptile show.  He found some millipedes to take home and I found this precious baby.  I think I'm going to call her Crystal.  She's a white-faced pearl drop cockatiel.  She's missing her crest feathers.  Another bird chewed them off.  She needs me.


Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon - The book does sound like a must read for bookish people. Like many of is I love reading about bookstores and books. I might give this a read.

It is very nice that Josh has found a home.

Have a great week!

mudpuddle said...

wow, watch out for Xtal's nipper: it looks like it could take a big chunk out of an ear! i read the Hanff quite a while ago and liked it... there's a sequel also and i read that also but i don't remember it: just more history of the association i think... how many birds do you have now?

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Brian,

I think you would enjoy this book very much. Review it, if you do. Have a wonderful week!

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi mudpuddle.

It has become apparent to me that Crystal(I'm wondering if I should call her Pearl?) has never been handled before. She allows me to approach her, talk to her, stand close to her, but so far I cannot touch her.

She's currently my fifth bird. Sophie my Quaker flew away last May (sob!), so now I have two Lovebirds (Toot and Puddle); two cockatiels (Percy Roosevelt and Crystal Pearl); and my little green monster/loverboy Hercule.

Maybe I should get Hercule a mate?

I didn't know there was a sequel. I'd like to read it.

Carol said...

Hi Sharon, I’ve looked for that book on and off for years but I’ve never found it secondhand and it’s so expensive to buy new here. I think the other book Mudpuddle mentioned was The Duchess of Bloomsbury St.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Carol,

Does you local library have a digital branch? Maybe you could get the book that way. Good luck!

Carol said...

Probably, Sharon. I never read from a kindle or electronic device - I find it really distracting or something...

Sharon Wilfong said...

Kindles can never replace books, but I do like my Kindle when I'm traveling or at night when I want to read in bed and not bother my husband.