Monday, November 16, 2009

84 Charing Cross Road

I must admit I loved this book by Helene Hanff. My library had mistakenly cataloged the book as fiction* and so I was a bit confused when I read it. The book is a collection of letters, not unlike the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society that I had just finished. But the letters rang true and I began to wonder if perhaps this book was indeed nonfiction. A quick Wikipedia search for Helene Hanff quickly explained that Hanff was indeed a well known writer who really did correspond with a book seller in London.

The book is a series of letters between Helene Hanff and a London based bookseller. Hanff was in search of certain books and the bookseller at 84 Charing Cross Road was happy to oblige despite their difficult conditions after World War II**. The initial inquiry by Hanff launched a relationship between herself and the bookstore staff which lasted over 20 years. The letters reveal the quirky character and life of Helene Hanff. Some of her letters are outright funny. The book has a few moments of sadness too.

Some critics believe some of the letters were indeed fiction. Some believe that some letters were not included. Regardless, they read true to me and it made me want to jump on a plane to visit the actual book store (which apparently doesn't exist anymore). The book is a quick read and worth your time.

Book Rating: 4 stars.

* The book has now been re-cataloged and happily resides on the 818 shelf.

** I had no idea that food rationing lasted for years after WWII in the UK.

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