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84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
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84, Charing Cross Road (1970)

by Helene Hanff (Author), Frank Doel

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: 84, Charing Cross Road (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,5662221,481 (4.25)832
Recently added byprivate library, BookAddictUK, AndreaBoyce, smichaelwilson, nurse73, ShyPageSniffer, CC123, Deborah_Markus
Legacy LibrariesJuice Leskinen
  1. 156
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (khuggard, DetailMuse, helgagrace, ehough75, kraaivrouw)
    khuggard: Another tale about book lovers who come together through letters, with the same, post-war England setting.
    kraaivrouw: Another book about people who connect via their love of books and reading.
  2. 60
    The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff (Booksloth)
  3. 40
    Private Papers of a Bankrupt Bookseller, The by Anonymous (BasilBlue)
    BasilBlue: Fascinating peek at the nature of book sellers and book buyers in the early 20th century.
  4. 30
    The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley (BasilBlue)
  5. 41
    Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff (lilithcat)
    lilithcat: "Q" is Arthur Quiller-Couch, whose book On the Art of Writing led Ms. Hanff to what would become many of her favorite books and writers.
  6. 74
    The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (withwill, teelgee)
  7. 30
    The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee (Booksloth)
  8. 21
    An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the World of Books by Wendy Werris (sfelber)
    sfelber: Another book about books-this time the book selling business. A fascinating read. This memoir by Wendy Werris details her life from working in a San Francisco book store as a kid to becoming an independent book rep. A true behind-the-scene view for bibliophiles.… (more)
  9. 00
    The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story by Theodora Goss (MyriadBooks)
  10. 11
    At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays by Anne Fadiman (Booksloth)
  11. 12
    Book Traveller by Bruce Bliven (trav)
  12. 01
    Venuto al mondo by Margaret Mazzantini (remeig)
  13. 01
    Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (bnbookgirl, bnbookgirl)
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» See also 832 mentions

English (195)  Spanish (9)  French (6)  Catalan (5)  German (3)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (221)
Showing 1-5 of 195 (next | show all)
I just reread this for the millionth time, because I always reread this when I find myself reading a book that turns out to be eminently hateable. There are books I can rely on to make me happy, and this is one of them.

This is the book that taught me about the lean years in England after World War II was over. Food was rationed for years and years. Fresh eggs were small miracles.

Helene Hanff, a quirky, barely-scraping-by writer, began ordering books from a small bookstore in England in 1949 -- partly because she'd always loved England and desperately wanted a connection with it; partly because, thanks to the oddities of publishing at the time, it was cheaper to get used copies of the books she wanted from England than new copies of them here in America. Cheaper, and more magical:

I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest.

Hanff could be paralyzingly shy in person, but she was blunt and in-your-face-funny on paper. She was also deeply generous. And so her correspondence with the manager of Marks & Co Booksellers quickly blossomed into friendship -- especially when she started sending food parcels:

Brian told me you are all rationed to 2 ounces of meat per family per week and one egg per person per month and I am simply appalled. He has a catalogue from a British firm here which flies food from Denmark to his mother, so I am sending a small Christmas present to Marks & Co.

This present was shared around with all the employees of the small shop, who were properly grateful to, and intrigued by, this overseas benefactor. One of them decides Hanff is "young and very sophisticated and smart-looking," while another insists she must be "quite studious-looking in spite of your wonderful sense of humor."

Hanff corrects them on all these points -- she's just a self-educated New Yorker who loves good books and schleps around in "moth-eaten sweaters and wool slacks." And the letters -- book orders, recipes, recommendations and requests -- fly back and forth between the New York oddball and the fascinated Brits for nearly 20 years.

I love Hanff's writing, which is why I got genuinely angry with her scorn for fiction. "I never can get interested in things that didn't happen to people who never lived," she says proudly when explaining why none of her book orders are for novels.

UPDATE: I originally wrote this review when I'd just begun to read what I assumed was a reputable biography of Hanff. Said biography turned out to be so poorly written and lacking in credibility that I now regret having bought or read it. I reviewed it, accurately, as the worst book I've ever read, and I've read a lot of bad books.

This biography claims that Hanff's letters in 84 are reconstructions, created by Hanff when she got the idea for this book and based on the letters she'd kept from her friends in England. He says that none of the original letters she wrote survived, so she scrambled together something like what she might have written back in the day.

I have been unable to find any independent verification for this claim, and regret having passed it on as fact in the previous version of this review.

Hanff herself admits editing another autobiographical book, a diary she kept when she was finally able to visit England. So I wouldn't be at all surprised if she'd touched up her side of the correspondence in this volume.

It would be wonderfully ironic if the woman who made such a point of hating fiction didn't get famous until she started writing it.

But it's impossible for me to tell if that's the case, or if this collection is in fact a faithful representation of some wonderful correspondence that went to and fro across the pond years before I was born.

No matter what the case may be, I still love this book, because I can enjoy it for what it is: one woman's idea of a story from a long time ago. ( )
1 vote Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
Correspondence between Helene Hanff, a writer living in New York, and Frank Doel, an employee at a bookshop in England (and various members of his family and other bookshop staff) between 1949 and 1969. I thought I was going to love this more than I did. It was interesting on the subject of rationing and post-war England generally and there were flashes of humour. The idea that it was necessary and cost-effective to order books from overseas was surprising. It was sort of gentle and lovely, but I was glad that it ended when it did - it is a very quick read. ( )
  pgchuis | Jul 13, 2015 |
Oh, what a delightful read. I can't believe I've never read it until now! The letters were utterly charming, witty, humorous and they generally just captivate you from the very first moment. And I simply LOVE Helene's personality. The way she becomes so comfortable with Frank so quickly. She just lectures and scolds him like nobody's business(e.g. FRANKIE, GET YOUR LAZY ASS UP AND SEND ME SOME BOOKS) lol

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street was also a lovely read. Probably because I'm an Anglophile myself. I would so love to visit England some time! I have a feeling I'd feel exactly like Helene did when she visited London. Everything would seem surreal and nothing would disappoint you anymore.

I'd recommend this book to everyone. At least, those that haven't actually read it yet.. are there any? ...No? Ok. I guess I'm the last one to do so. ( )
  novewong | Jul 8, 2015 |
84 Charing Cross Road is a rare book. Different from everything else, it is a small, simple and incredibly touching book. It is a collection of letters that the author, American writer Helene Hanff, exchanged for twenty years with Frank Doel, from London bookshop Marks & Co. It's one of the most charming and beautiful eulogy for the love of books, bookshops and friendships I have ever read.

This edition includes the follow-up "The Duchess Of Bloomsbury Street", Hanff's diary of when she finally visited London, unfortunately when Doel had already died and Marks & Co closed. It is an interesting view of London through the eyes of a first time American visitor in love with the city's literature, but not as perfect as its predecessor. ( )
  espadana | Jun 24, 2015 |
2
  kutheatre | Jun 4, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 195 (next | show all)
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of what may be the most unlikely New York Times bestseller ever: Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road. ...84 Charing Cross Road is a perfect example of why you can't judge a book by its cover, its length, or the unorthodox nature of its content. Ultimately what makes the book work is what makes any book work, whether fiction or nonfiction: the relationships between the characters....84 Charing Cross Road is at its core a book about lovers of books, and is at the same time one of the funniest and most touching books you'll ever read
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hanff, HeleneAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Doel, Frankmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Anne BancroftIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gómez i Casademont, PuriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kooten, Barbara vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Premoli, MarinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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F.P.D. In Memoriam
First words
Gentlemen: Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books.
Quotations
My friends are peculiar about books. They read all the best sellers, they get through them as fast as possible, I think they skip a lot. And they NEVER read anything a second time so they don't remember a word of it a year later. But they are profoundly shocked to see me drop a book in the wastebasket or give it away. The way they look at it, you buy a book, you read it, you put it on the shelf, you never open it again for the rest of your life but YOU DON'T THROW IT OUT! NOT IF IT HAS A HARD COVER ON IT! Why not? I personally can't think of anything less sacrosanct than a bad book or even a mediocre book. [54]
I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. The day Hazlitt came he opened to "I hate to read new books," and I hollered "Comrade!" to whoever owned it before me. [7]
It [the Book Lover's Anthology] looks too new and pristine ever to have been read by anyone else, but it has been: it keeps falling open at the most delightful places as the ghost of its former owner points me to things I've never read before. [56]
Have you got De Tocqueville's Journey to America?  Somebody borrowed mine and never gave it back.  Why is it that people who wouldn't dream of stealing anything else think it's perfectly all right to steal books? [61]
A newspaper man I know, who was stationed in London during the war, says tourists go to England with preconceived 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." [13]
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the main work - Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road (unabridged).  Please do not combine with omnibus/combined editions, anthologies or abridged editions.

The UK edition titled 84 Charing Cross Road, ISBN 0860074382, 1844085244 and 1860498507, is actually an omnibus edition of this title and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.  Works identified as this omnibus should NOT be combined with this work, 84 Charing Cross Road.
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Book description
VIRAGO EDITION:
Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase 'antiquarian book-sellers' scares me somewhat, as I equate 'antique' with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes and Noble's grimy, marked-up schoolboy copies.

So begins the delightfully reticent love affair between Miss Helene Hanff of New York and Messrs Marks and Co, sellers of rare and secondhand books, at 84 Charing Cross Road, London. For twenty years this outspoken New York writer and Frank Doel, a rather more restrained London bookseller, carry on an increasingly touching correspondence to the point where, in early December, 1949, Helene is suddenly worried that the six-pound ham she's sent off to augment British rations will arrive in a kosher office.
Soon they are sharing more personal news about Frank's family and Hanff's career. No doubt their letters would have continued, but in 1969 the firm's secretary informed Helene 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.'
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140143505, Paperback)

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."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:11 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

What started as a request for an out-of-print book evolved into a 20-year friendship between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York, and Frank Doel, a used-book dealer in London.

» see all 4 descriptions

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