Book Review: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Title: 84, Charing Cross Road
Author: Helene Hanff
Published: 1970
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Synopsis: It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene’s sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.

My Rating: red-starred-starred-starred-star

This was a product of my new mood-reading that I’m engaging in this month. I have so much to read for school and papers to write that I said – pick what you’re up to. So that’s how come on Saturday afternoon I picked this up after finishing homework for that day. Clocking in at a mere 97 pages this collection of correspondence between Ms. Helene Hanff and Mr. Frank Doel did something to me.

Helene reaches out from New York to the small bookshop on 84, Charing Cross Road and is responded by Mr. Frank Doel. Helene is brash New Yorker, types in all caps, swears, refusing at times to use proper punctuation while Frank is the complete opposite. He embodies that proper Englishman with an undertone of dry British humor and sensibilities. So details the friendship that spanned 20 years as the two pen-pals bond over their love for books. This is so incredibly heart-warming, it will make you smile, laugh out loud and bawl like a baby.

I fell in love with these two and watching the years pass, Helene being too poor to afford to make it to London and same with Frank. Being the obvious masochist that I am, I decided to find the movie that came in 1984 starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins along with Judi Dench and it solidified this story as one of my favorites. This book made me want to loose myself in an old bookshop and smell old books, it made me want to acquire a witty pen-pal and it made me appreciate the power of old English literature and how people from all backgrounds will always bond because of their love for books. Absolutely loved this little gem.


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