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The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene…
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The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (1973)

by Helene Hanff

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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Just as I did with "84, Charing Cross Road", I recently (and delightedly) found this volume as a used book. "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street" is a sequel to "84, Charing Cross Road". In 1971, Helene Hanff is invited to London after the success of her first volume and she records her experience in diary form. She meets the wife and daughter of her late correspondent Frank Doel -- this correspondence between Helene the book-buyer and Frank the used book dealer -- was the essence of "84,Charing Cross Road". Helene also meets up with many of her readers who specifically ask to host her and take her to various sight-seeing sites. She gets to stay in London for about 6 weeks, having this journal published in 1973.

This volume was amusing in many parts -- the conversations she had with those she met in London were amusing. I also enjoyed comparing her notes to my memories of my week-long visit to London in 2001, thirty years after her stay there. She did get to see much more because she was there longer, and this only makes me want to go back again to revisit and also to see some of the spots Helene saw but I didn't. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Oct 7, 2013 |
Written in diary format, this book captures Hanff's trip to England in 1971, when she finally travels across the pond to promote her book, 84, Charing Cross Road and to satisfy her lifelong dream, to find, "The England of English literature". Beautifully told with charm and candor, I was transported back in time to a world that is wonderfully timeless. This is a story about a personal journey, about old friends who finally meet, about new friendships made and about the changes in perspective such a monumental journey can bring about. As this one is in diary format, it lacks some of the spellbinding charm of 84, Charing Cross Road and the wonderful correspondence between Hanff, Frank Doel, the other members of Marks and Co and Frank's patient and loving wife, Nora. Reading 84, Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street back to back is the perfect way to really experience this second book... the magic of the first book carries this second book and gives it meaning. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is filled with anecdotes that made me smile and transported me back in time to an era where air travel wasn't subject to the rigid scrutiny that it is today. I loved how Hanff was met on the tarmac coming off the plane by a fan who happened to work at London Airport, and was walked by this gentleman right past the Immigration and Customs tables with a flippant "Friend of Mine" called over the shoulder. No one stopped them or questioned anything.

It is amazing the memories a book can conjure up. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is the perfect read for anyone who loves 84, Charing Cross Road, is a book lover, and anglophile or just loves to armchair travel.

Favorite Quote: "Got so carried away by my own eloquence that when we were driving home I began to wonder whether in explaining the American affection for Gray, I stumbled on a clue to the English passion for Dickens. They may admire Shakespeare more but it's Dickens they love. Maybe the average Englishman, being neither king nor peasant, identifies less with the kings and peasants of Shakespeare than with the lower and middle-class upward-mobility types in Dickens."

Food for thought, indeed. ( )
  lkernagh | Oct 1, 2013 |
I finished this in just a day, I think--it was a fun follow-up to 84, Charing Cross Road, in which the author finally gets her chance to go to London. Having lived there for a couple of months, I relished every page. I miss London so much--it gets in your blood! As Helene Hanff says, “History, as they say, is alive and well and living in London.” It was fun to revisit the sites with herf and hear her take on them. I wish I had read this before my trip, but luckily my dad had given me some Digestives and Cadbury chocolate bars for Christmas, so I munched them while I read instead. Thanks, Daddy! ( )
  jessibelle34 | Jul 12, 2013 |
I liked Hanff's book 84, Charing Cross Road very much. It was charming and personal in its description of a 20-year postal love affair from Hanff in New York with a bookseller, Frank, in London. They never met because Frank died but in 1971 Hanff travelled to London, a city she always wanted to visit. She spent time with Frank's wife and daughter and a host of other people from friends of friends who loved her book, to perfect strangers who heard she was in town and wanted to entertain her, to the obligatory book signings.

The book is a diary of meals eaten and sites seen in London and elsewhere, including the Cotswolds and Oxford. It has little to sustain it other than an interest in Hanff but I could not maintain even that and skipped through the last third or more.

Two things did emerge. First, the generosity of people in opening their homes and their lives to a stranger based on their appreciation of her book. Second, remembrance of the days or air travel when onerous and paranoid security did not blight the experience....Hanff's arrival in, and departure from, London were from a world long gone.

Not a book I would recommend. Enjoy 84, Charing Cross Road if you haven't read it and leave it at that. I liked Hanff's book 84, Charing Cross Road very much. It was charming and personal in its description of a 20-year postal love affair from Hanff in New York with a bookseller, Frank, in London. They never met because Frank died but in 1971 Hanff travelled to London, a city she always wanted to visit. She spent time with Frank's wife and daughter and a host of other people from friends of friends who loved her book, to perfect strangers who heard she was in town and wanted to entertain her, to the obligatory book signings.

The book is a diary of meals eaten and sites seen in London and elsewhere, including the Cotswolds and Oxford. It has little to sustain it other than an interest in Hanff but I could not maintain even that and skipped through the last third or more.

Two things did emerge. First, the generosity of people in opening their homes and their lives to a stranger based on their appreciation of her book. Second, remembrance of the days or air travel when onerous and paranoid security did not blight the experience....Hanff's arrival in, and departure from, London were from a world long gone.

Not a book I would recommend. Enjoy 84, Charing Cross Road if you haven't read it and leave it at that.
  John | Apr 17, 2013 |
This is the chronicle of Helene Hanff's long delayed visit to London in the summer of 1971, following on from the publication of her well-known book [b:84, Charing Cross Road|368916|84, Charing Cross Road|Helene Hanff|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1287338794s/368916.jpg|938626].

While it lacks the unselfconscious charm of 84 Charing Cross Road, this memoir is still full of exuberance and wit. For anyone who has at last travelled to a long dreamed-of country or city, the book brings to mind all of the anticipation, wonder and excitement of such an adventure.

As a traveller on her first visit to London, Hanff differs from many others who have been on a similar journey. Having written 84 Charing Cross Road, she found herself to be a celebrity with a particular connection to London, and her account of her time in the city is coloured by that experience.

Highly recommended to readers who love 84 Charing Cross Road, to those who love London and to anyone who has ever embarked on a pilgrimage inspired by books and reading. ( )
  KimMR | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
To the people of London.
First words
Theoretically, it was one of the happiest days of my life.
Quotations
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:

COMMIT NO NUISANCE.

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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 155921144X, Paperback)

A zesty memoir of the celebrated writer's travels to England where she meets the cherished friends from 84, Charing Cross Road.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:16 -0400)

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