84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

I don’t normally enjoy books about books,  but 84 Charing Cross Road had the kind of cover that begs to be read.

It is a book of letters between a struggling New York writer and the London bookseller she finds to supply her with out-of-print British books.

The letters begin as a formal business exchange, buying books across the Atlantic in the days when this was done by letter. After about a year Hanff begins becoming more familiar with FPD along with a few of the rest of his staff, and the letters become more personal and charming.

I was disappointed by the second section where Hanff describes her visit to London in The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Instead of a friendly exchange this is a combination of travel diary, writing about coping with fands and gripes. There is a fraction of the charm of the first section. On inspection it appears that the second section was added for a later edition, after 84 Charing Cross Road was first published in the early 1970s.

Read it, just leave the second half!


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