84 Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff
Published by Penguin Books
For such a tiny little book, at only 97 pages, this book packs a nice little punch. It’s such a sweet collection of letters, chronicling the friendship between Hanff and Frank Doel, a bookseller for Marks & Co., at 84 Charing Cross Road.
Hanff, best known for this book and as a writer for some early television, writes her first letter in 1949. She’s quite a collector of books, and has heard that Marks & Co. specializes in out of print books. She encloses a list, with instructions that they should be no more than $5 each.
She receives a reply, with a few books and an invoice. The enclosed letter is signed Yours faithfully, FPD For Marks & Co. And the friendship begins.
Hanff, writing from New York to London, continues her funny and acerbic correspondence with Frank, and others from the bookshop, until 1969. During that time we learn a little about the fondness and kindness that builds between Hanff and her new friends in England. From Hanff sending a ham and a carton of eggs to the shop – which were still rationed in England; to the shop employees sending her a hand embroidered linen cloth for Christmas.
The correspondence in the book tells more than just the story of a woman searching for books, it tells the story of how the lives of people from across the ocean can be entwined in friendship, even so far away.
I could not recommend a book more. This one is so sweet and touching, and I wish it had gone on forever.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave your comments below.
Helene Hanff Wikipedia page: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helene_Hanff