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Q's Legacy (1985)

by Helene Hanff

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8703224,419 (3.99)1 / 138
This memoir tells the remarkable story of how Helene Hanff came to write 84, Charing Cross Road, and how its success changed her. Hanff recalls her serendipitous discovery of a volume of lectures by a Cambridge don, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. She devoured Q's book, and, wanting to read all the books he recommended, began to order them from a small store in London at 84, Charing Cross Road. Thus began a correspondence that became an enormously popular book, play, television production, and movie, and that finally led to the trip to England -- and a visit to Q's study -- that she recounts in this exuberant memoir. Hanff pays her debt to her mentor and shares her joyous adventures with her many fans. "Reading Helene Hanff's book is like making a new friend -- a charming, wise, and funny one." -- Betty Rollin "A potpourri . . . easy and assured . . . A delightful companion for the odd hour." -- San Francisco Chronicle "Hanff's charm is such that when she exults . . . we exult right along with her." -- Kirkus Reviews… (more)
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I've read this right on the heels of 84, Charing Cross Road and am absolutely delighted with the both of them! What a sweet, endearing memoir full of hilarious anecdotes and witty life observances. I'd never heard of this author or her books before receiving these two this fall but I know I'll be recommending her now. I think the thing I love about Hanff the most is her desire to educate herself. She didn't need college professors to spoon feed her. She read to learn and to learn what to read. I, too, am a self-educated writer. Hanff couldn't afford to go to college. I, though I can afford it, choose not to. I find it very satisfying to explore the world on my own schedule and in my own way.

I loved reading about her time spent exploring England 45-55 years ago---imagining the places I've been without some of the things that are now there---and with things that are no longer there. For instance, she described Jane Austen's gravesite in great detail but was struck by the fact that it didn't mention her as a renowned authoress. There is now a gorgeous plaque on the wall near her gravestone that discusses her writing success and the lasting impact she's made on the world.

She also described Chawton Cottage with several details that are no longer there on display, as far as I know, such as the letter from Jane to Edward announcing their father's death, as well as a selection of period-correct dresses in Jane's room. The first time I visited Chawton Cottage, there was only the blue Anne Hathaway dress on display and last year there were none. They no longer, as far as I know, show off the "creaking door"---it's always propped open when I've come; and Jane's nephew, Jeremy Knight, greets visitors, rather than a caretaker. (Knight would have been up the road residing at Chawton Manor with his young family when Hanff visited. Now the Knights no longer inhabit the home and it, too, is open to the public.)

Another line regarding rock candy at Brighton struck me funny when she said, "it's as unique to Brighton as salt-water taffy is to Atlantic City." At the time, that statement was fact. Now it is a false analogy as rock candy sticks can be found in every candy store from York to Bath---just like salt-water taffy is so common I can grab a bag for $3 at any Walmart.

I loved these lines at the end---they remind me of the importance of recording my life in journals: "If I live to be very old, all my memories of the glory days will grow vague and confused, till I won't be certain any of it really happened. But the books will be there, on my shelves and in my head---the one enduring reality I can be certain of till the day I die."

This book, like 84 Charing Cross Road, is dear to me. Why can't these types be on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die List?

I may hold on to this awhile---I may pass it on. Not sure yet. I sure do appreciate having the opportunity to read it! ( )
  classyhomemaker | Dec 11, 2023 |
This is a great compaion piece to 84, Charing Cross Road. The pick's up with Hannff's life after the book and chronicles her trip to London. I love her writing style, funny fast paced.

This is a bit from the section after her eye surgery.
There was, for instance, the beautiful brown-and-white collie who came toward me one day in the park and who, as I stooped to pet him, turned into a brown suitcase in a man's white-cuffed hand. And there was the lovely Saturday afternoon when I was sailing insouciantly down Fifth Avenue and saw ahead of me a large pink banner streaming down the familiar steps of St. Thomas's church. St. Thomas's has wonderful choral concerts and I hoped the banner was advertising one of them, as the crowd at the side of the steps seemed to indicate. The crowd blocked my way and I detoured around it and down to the curb — just as a limousine door opened and a misty white bride walked into me. That's when I saw that the large pink banner had turned into six pink bridesmaids lined up in formation on the church steps.



If you liked 84, Charing Cross Road you really should give this one a try. ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
This book is the perfect companion piece to 84, Charing Cross Road, as it picks up on what happen to Hanaff after the success of her book. It was also really funny in parts like on her exam for a scholarship she had labeled the Pacific Ocean as Africa and then after her eye surgery


There was, for instance, the beautiful brown-and-white collie who came toward me one day in the park and who, as I stooped to pet him, turned into a brown suitcase in a man's white-cuffed hand. And there was the lovely Saturday afternoon when I was sailing insouciantly down Fifth Avenue and saw ahead of me a large pink banner streaming down the familiar steps of St. Thomas's church. St. Thomas's has wonderful choral concerts and I hoped the banner was advertising one of them, as the crowd at the side of the steps seemed to indicate. The crowd blocked my way and I detoured around it and down to the curb — just as a limousine door opened and a misty white bride walked into me. That's when I saw that the large pink banner had turned into six pink bridesmaids lined up in formation on the church steps.




It's just a great story about a writer who struggled most of her life then the rewards as she neared old age. ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
Just like [84, Charing Cross Road], Q's Legacy is an endearing memoir. This one is about how Helene Hanff learned to be a writer. "Q" is the Cambridge lecturer whose book she chooses one day at the library. She says: He spoke a language I could understand, and he had a sense of humour, which all by itself set him apart from the rest of the professors I'd been reading all morning. And he was Oxford-and-Cambridge. I decided I could study with him without necessarily agreeing with everything he said. Eventually, she acquired all his lectures.
She does a great job of showing how much work it really is to write a book, let alone one that will sell. I loved that she was self-taught - through reading lectures and the books that were referenced in the lectures. Her sense of humor shines throughout the book. A truly lovely read that makes me wonder why it sat on my shelves for so long.

If I live to be very old, all my memories of the glory days will grow vague and confused, till I won't be certain any of it really happened. But the books will be there, on my shelves and in my head - the one enduring reality I can be certain of till the day I die. ( )
  nittnut | Aug 31, 2018 |
I love [84 Charing Cross Road] and for a long time have been wanting to read this book about the "legacy" of the books Hanff read by a literature professor that in a round about way prompted the writing of 84. I never quite got wrapped up in Hanff's world and her life in this volume, perhaps because this book is more about television and theater than it is about books and reading. Certainly not a bad read (and probably *much* more interesting to someone into television and theater in the way that I am into books) but without the charm of 84. ( )
  lycomayflower | Jan 31, 2018 |
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In grateful memory of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
"Not to pay a debt but to acknowledge it."
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Q and I first met on a summer morning when I was eighteen, at the main branch of the Philadelphia Public Library where I'd gone in search of a teacher; and I took him home with me despite certain doubts about his fitness for the post.
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This memoir tells the remarkable story of how Helene Hanff came to write 84, Charing Cross Road, and how its success changed her. Hanff recalls her serendipitous discovery of a volume of lectures by a Cambridge don, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. She devoured Q's book, and, wanting to read all the books he recommended, began to order them from a small store in London at 84, Charing Cross Road. Thus began a correspondence that became an enormously popular book, play, television production, and movie, and that finally led to the trip to England -- and a visit to Q's study -- that she recounts in this exuberant memoir. Hanff pays her debt to her mentor and shares her joyous adventures with her many fans. "Reading Helene Hanff's book is like making a new friend -- a charming, wise, and funny one." -- Betty Rollin "A potpourri . . . easy and assured . . . A delightful companion for the odd hour." -- San Francisco Chronicle "Hanff's charm is such that when she exults . . . we exult right along with her." -- Kirkus Reviews

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