84 Charing Cross Road and The Dutchess of Bloomsb

by Helene Hanff


It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene's sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.

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This is a beautiful account of a NYC writer and her correspondences with some staff from an antique bookshop based in London. The letter writing begins on October 5, 1949 and continues for over 20 years. The relationship that develops between the letter writers blossoms. As they begin to feel more comfortable with one another, the dialogue becomes quite witty and amusing. What I loved most was getting a glimpse into how the times gradually change through the eyes of the writers (from QE II’s coronation to Beatle-mania, etc.). The story is quite moving without meaning to be – a true testament to the fact that you do not have to live near someone or even know them to show him/her decency and kindness. It also made me feel a little guilty of how out of touch I am with people that I care for deeply, despite the luxury of such technological advancements such as email and video-conferencing! The work has everything I love in a story – the only thing I would have liked is maybe a couple of snapshots of some of the friends Hanff made along the way.

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