84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84 Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff
Grossman Publishers, deluxe gift edition 1975

Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

A newspaper man I know, who was stationed in London during the war, says tourists go to England with pre-conceived notions, so they always find exactly what they go looking for. I told him I’d go looking for the England of English literature, and he said:
“Then it’s there.”

84, Charing Cross Road is the address of bookshop Marks & Co, where Helene Hanff, located in the US, writes letters requesting titles she would like to buy from the bookshop. In the book we find these letters, and the answers she received, over the twenty years during which Helene exchanged letters mostly with employee Frank Doel. Even though they do not meet face to face, Helene establishes a friendship with Frank and his fellow employees.

All of you who recommended this to me were right. As I might have known in advance. I loved 84, Charing Cross Road. It has so much of what I love in a good read: letter exchanges, literary references, friendships established over bookish talk, and just an overall sense of goodwill and humour.

I find I have very little to say about this book except that if you are a little bit of a bookworm, and if you like the idea of long-distance friendships founded over shared hobbies, or are very fond of second-hand bookshops, go read this small volume.

I can imagine that this might very well turn into one of those go-to comfort books. Which means I definitely need to own it! I just saw that Virago Modern Classics once released a cloth bound hardback volume. It appears to be unavailable at the moment. I kind of want it though. Although I also like the various covers that feature letter boxes. Those are bound to disappear from memory as we exchange letters for emails?

Oh, and I couldn’t help but include that first quote, because guess where I’m going mid-December? And guess what England (or London, in my case) I will go looking for?

Other Opinions: Books and Movies, Literate Housewife, eclectic/eccentric, Things Mean a Lot, A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook, Savidge Reads, It’s All About Books, MarysLibrary, Unputdownables, Start Narrative Here, My Porch, The Reading Life, Whimpulsive, at home with books, Jenny’s Books, Bart’s Bookshelf, Rebecca Reads, The Literary Stew, Book Harbinger, Sophisticated Dorkiness, Buried in Print, Care’s Online Book Club, DizzyC’s Little Book Blog, Pages of Julia,  Citizen Reader, One Librarian’s Book Reviews, the bluestocking society, A Bookish Way of Life, the book nest, tiny little reading room, Both Eyes Book Blog, Fingers & Prose, You’ve GOTTA Read This, Library Queue, You can never have too many books, Chachic’s Book Nook, Coffeespoons, Nose in a book, The Written World, A Work in Progress, Whispering Gums, Verity’s Virago Venture, Books, Time and Silence, Sassymonkey Reads, Blue-hearted Bookworm, Alita Reads, The Broke and the Bookish, Jeanette’s Books.
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25 thoughts on “84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

  1. Ana @ things mean a lot

    The sign is actually small and easy to miss (I missed it the first time around), so here’s a tip: it’s on the opposite side of the road to Foyle’s, a bit before you get to it if memory serves me right. I knew you’d love this!

  2. Brooke

    Well, doesn’t this sound like a perfectly delightful little gem of a novel I knew nothing about! Glad you enjoyed and can’t wait to try it out myself!

  3. Katherine Nabity

    Definitely one of my comfort books. Strangely, as a new Kindle owner, I thought about purchasing an ebook version to have with me, even though I own a copy of the physical book. And I thought to myself, what would Helene think of *that*? Makes my heart happy to see so many reviews of it. Have a wonderful trip!

  4. SarahCT

    There is also a movie version with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, which was delightful. I don’t know if it is very much changed from the book, but I thought it very well made.
    Enjoy your trip! I envy you!

  5. debbierodgers

    Lucky you – going to London! Riffle a few pages for me.

    I loved this book too, as just about any book lover would.

  6. Jenny

    Oh I am so envious of you going to England later this year! I wish I could, I miss it terribly, especially all the lovely bookstores. The quote you excerpted is maybe my favorite thing from this book, because it is exactly, exactly true to my own experience.

  7. Bookgazing

    You’re going to be in England?:) Any chance of a catch up or are you booked solid? I recommend Hanff’s book about actually going to England and trying to see everythign she wants to.

    1. Iris Post author

      There is a book about her actually visiting England? Ah, I need to read that!

      I will email you about London.🙂 Can’t guarantee anything right now, but who knows? Would be nice!

  8. zibilee

    I loved this book, and felt so warm and fuzzy while I was reading it, which was long ago. The new addition sounds like something that I need for my library. In the age of the shocking and explicit novel, this is a piece of comfort among the strangeness. Excellent review! Had I known you were reading it, I would have cheered you on!

  9. winstonsdad

    wonderful book I have the virago copy you mentioned ,some of the bigger book shop may still have them ,I say watch the film of it as well that is great and I feel the two main characters are just like I vision them ,in fact it is shown on sony tv in uk quite often so you may see t one while here ,all the best stu

  10. Joanna @ CreateYourWorld

    This was the first book I read this year and I loved it, though I’m sorry to say I never reviewed it. It’s so amazing, the whole idea and the book loving aspect of it too, of course. Are you going to read the follow-up, about when she actually gets to go to London? It’s also very good.

  11. Pingback: Happy 2013! (And belated goodbye to 2012) | Iris on Books

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