Friday, October 22, 2010

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

"84, Charing Cross Road is a charming record of bibliophilia, cultural difference, and imaginative sympathy. For 20 years, an outspoken New York writer and a rather more restrained London bookseller carried on an increasingly touching correspondence. In her first letter to Marks & Co., Helene Hanff encloses a wish list, but warns, "The phrase 'antiquarian booksellers' scares me somewhat, as I equate 'antique' with expensive." Twenty days later, on October 25, 1949, a correspondent identified only as FPD let Hanff know that works by Hazlitt and Robert Louis Stevenson would be coming under separate cover. When they arrive, Hanff is ecstatic--but unsure she'll ever conquer "bilingual arithmetic." By early December 1949, Hanff is suddenly worried that the six-pound ham she's sent off to augment British rations will arrive in a kosher office. But only when FPD turns out to have an actual name, Frank Doel, does the real fun begin.
Two years later, Hanff is outraged that Marks & Co. has dared to send an abridged Pepys diary. "i enclose two limp singles, i will make do with this thing till you find me a real Pepys. THEN i will rip up this ersatz book, page by page, AND WRAP THINGS IN IT." Nonetheless, her postscript asks whether they want fresh or powdered eggs for Christmas. Soon they're sharing news of Frank's family and Hanff's career. No doubt their letters would have continued, but in 1969, the firm's secretary informed her that Frank Doel had died. In the collection's penultimate entry, Helene Hanff urges a tourist friend, "If you happen to pass by 84, Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me. I owe it so much." (

This is a wonderfully sweet little novel.  I read it in one sitting (while drinking a cup of tea) and smiled all the way through.  For people who love books and love talking about books (and writing about books) this is a wonderful addition to any home library.  Next up is the movie - we'll see how it measures up!

***5/5 stars***

I Remember You by Harriet Evans

"Twelve years in bustling London have left Tess Tennant dumped by her boyfriend, out of work, and miserable. Still, maybe taking a new job as a classics professor at the tiny college in her picture-perfect hometown in the English countryside was a bit drastic. Langford’s stone cottages, quaint shops, and lifelong locals feel even smaller than she remembered, but at least Tess has Adam, her best and oldest friend. On a spontaneous birthday adventure back to the city, though, their painful and heartbreaking past forces them into an angry confrontation.
Tess escapes to Rome on a class trip and falls unexpectedly into the arms of Peter, a charming American journalist . . . until a tragedy cuts her vacation short. Back home and alone, Tess must slowly unravel her feelings about her secretive best friend, the romantic new lover she barely knows, and the independent woman she really wants to be." (

This was just OK.  I found myself disliking the main character, Tess.  She was a tad whiny and I wanted to periodically shake her throughout the story.  That said, it held my interest enough to finish it.  I would definitely take this out of the library but it is not one to purchase as a keeper.

***3/5 stars***