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The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (1973)

by Helene Hanff

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: 84, Charing Cross Road (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9703615,081 (3.97)1 / 235
Nancy Mitford meets Nora Ephron in the pages of The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, Helene Hanff's delightful travelogue about her "bucket list" trip to London When devoted Anglophile Helene Hanff is invited to London for the English publication of 84, Charing Cross Road--in which she shares two decades of correspondence with Frank Doel, a British bookseller who became a dear friend--she can hardly believe her luck. Frank is no longer alive, but his widow and daughter, along with enthusiastic British fans from all walks of life, embrace Helene as an honored guest. Eager hosts, including a famous actress and a retired colonel, sweep her up in a whirlwind of plays and dinners, trips to Harrod's, and wild jaunts to their favorite corners of the countryside. A New Yorker who isn't afraid to speak her mind, Helene Hanff delivers an outsider's funny yet fabulous portrait of idiosyncratic Britain at its best. And whether she is walking across the Oxford University courtyard where John Donne used to tread, visiting Windsor Castle, or telling a British barman how to make a real American martini, Helene always wears her heart on her sleeve. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is not only a witty account of two different worlds colliding but also a love letter to England and its literary heritage--and a celebration of the written word's power to sustain us, transport us, and unite us.… (more)
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English (35)  German (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
A bittersweet memoir, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street recounts writer Helene Hanff's trip to England in the summer of 1971, her first trip outside the United States. Hanff's voice is charming, and you can't begrudge her the clear and unvarnished joy she takes in visiting places she's read about for so many years even if, like me, you absolutely cannot enter into her ardent Anglophilia. ( )
  siriaeve | Jun 16, 2020 |
A delightful sequel to one of my favorites 84 Charing Cross Road. ( )
  susandennis | Jun 5, 2020 |
n a follow-up to her hugely popular 84 Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff takes us to London. The book is written as diary/journal entries on her first (and last) trip to the city she had dreamed of visiting. Alas, her favorite bookstore, which she immortalized in her earlier book, was no more, but the success of that first book resulted in instant friends.

I loved how enthusiastic she was about seeing the literary landmarks she had so long dreamed about. I loved her reactions to differences and how she managed to “go with the flow” - particularly loved her exchange with the front desk when she wanted her dress pressed and her first experience ordering a “martini” (Hubby and I shared quite a laugh over that episode). Just makes me wish I had known Hanff in person and had the chance to travel with her … no matter where. I think we would have found something to captivate and enthrall us.

Definitely read 84 CCR first, but you’ll want to read this one as well … especially if you’re planning a trip to London. ( )
  BookConcierge | Jul 31, 2019 |
I really enjoyed this book about Helene Hanff's trip to London. After years of longing to go to London, yet having various things get in her way, she finally gets to make the trip. Due to the success of her book 84, Charing Cross, Helene is able to travel to London and meet the friends with whom she corresponded for years. Additionally, due to the book and other friendships, Helene is able to meet many people in London who take Helene under their wing and show her the sights. It would be wonderful to have guided tours and friendly dinners the way Helene did. It is also nice to see London through her eyes -- someone who has been in love with London for years.
An enjoyable book, I actually enjoyed this one more than 84, Charing Cross.
( )
  rmarcin | Jan 22, 2019 |
While this sequel to 84, Charing Cross Road made me laugh out loud several times, the writing style (diary entries) was not as charming as the epistolary style of the original. But I loved the descriptions of all the places and people she encountered during her trip to England. ( )
  leslie.98 | Oct 23, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Helene Hanffprimary authorall editionscalculated
Buzzard, MadelynNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the people of London.
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Theoretically, it was one of the happiest days of my life.
Somewhere along the way I came upon a mews with a small sign on the entrance gate addressed to the passing world. The sign orders flatly:


The more you stare at that, the more territory it covers. From dirtying the streets to housebreaking to invading Viet Nam, that covers all the territory there is. [83-84]
Lying in peaceful St. James's, I realize how much a city's parks reflect the character of its people. The parks here are tranquil, quiet, a bit reserved, and I love them. But on a long-term basis I would sorely miss the noisy exuberance of Central Park. [56]
All the rare-book dealers regaled me with stories of the trade. They told me that after the war there were too many books and not enough bookshop space, so all the dealers in London BURIED hundreds of old books in the open bomb craters of London streets. Today the buried books would be worth a fortune if they could be recovered, if the new buildings could be torn down and the rebuilt streets torn up. [115]
I'm in the bar again. I don't normally drink after dinner but in this hotel they think you're strange if you drink before dinner. So at 10 P.M. I'm having a martini. More or less.
The first night I came in here I said to the young bartender: "A martini, please." He reached for a bottle of Martini & Rossi vermouth and poured a glass full of it before I could scream WAIT A MINUTE!
"Would you put the gin in first, please?" I asked.
"Oh!" he said. "You want a gin martini."
He got the gin bottle and a shaker, and I said:
"Would you put some ice in the shaker, please? I like it cold."
"Right-o!" he said. He put an ice cube in the shaker, poured a jigger of gin on it, added half a cup of vermouth, stirred once, poured it out and handed it to me with a flourish. I paid him and shuffled over to a table telling myself sternly:
"Don't be like all those American tourists who can't adapt to another country's customs, just drink it."
Nobody could drink it.
The next time I came in it was dinner time, the bar was empty and the bartender and I got chummy; he said Wasn't I the writer? and told me his name was Bob. I said Did he mind if this time we used my recipe instead of his and he said Right-o, just tell him exactly what I wanted.
I said First could we start with four ice cubes in the shaker. He thought I was crazy but he put three cubes in (he was short on ice). He poured a jigger of gin in the shaker, and I said:
"Okay, now another jigger of gin."
He stared at me, shook his head in disbelief and added a second jigger of gin.
"Okay, now one more," I said.
"MORE gin?" he said, and I said:
"Yes, and lower your voice."
He poured the third jigger, still shaking his head. He reached for the vermouth bottle, and I said:
"I'll pour that."
I added a few drops of vermouth, stirred vigorously, let him pour it out for me and told him it was perfect.
Now he makes it by himself but he never can bring himself to add that third jigger of gin, he thinks he'll look up later and see me sprawled face down on a bar table sodden drunk.
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