84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is a book I discovered on Kelly’s blog. I was curious and borrowed it from the library. My copy had both 84 Charing Cross Road and its sequel, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. It was a mix to say the least. The first part, the 84-one, received a very well deserved 5 stars, but the second one, only got 3 stars, hence the rating of 4 stars.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84 Charing Cross Road was first published in 1970 and is a chronicle of her correspondence with Frank Doel, chief buyer for Marks&Co, a bookshop in London. A friendship developed and she started corresponding with other members of staff and Frank’s family, over the next 20 years the correspondence lasted. As this friendship started in 1949, she would sometimes send them food parcels, as UK was still struggling with post-war shortages and rationing. She told them about her life in Manhattan, which was interesting.

She kept postponing travelling due to various financial constrains and her adversity to travel. Frank died in 1968 and she got permission to publish the book. This lead to her travelling to London in 1971 to promote the book. This trip was recorded in the 1973 book The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.

I liked so much the letters, showing the difference in approaches and views of Helene and Frank. It was interesting to learn about how they handled the shortages and how this was seen by Helene, living in US. The second book though was annoying at times. She seemed self-centred in the first book too, but it was balanced with Frank and the others, but in the second book it proved too much, hence the 3 stars. For example, she decries capitalism as in UK there is the NHS which in her mind is socialism… while also talking in the same pages about eating lobster and shopping in Harrods. Overall, I would recommend only the first, the 1971 book and not the sequel.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 4/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes, the first half
Published by: Virago Modern Classics
Year it was published: 1982 (first published in 1970)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Memoir
Pages: 240

About the author: Helene Hanff was an American writer, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She wrote and edited scripts for a variety of early television dramas produced out of New York, before writing for magazines and books.
Hanff was never shy about her fondness for cigarettes and martinis, but nevertheless lived to be 80, dying of diabetes in 1997 in New York City. The apartment building where she lived at 305 E. 72nd Street has been named “Charing Cross House” in her honor. A bronze plaque next to the front door commemorates her residence and authorship of the book.
Website & Social Media Links: –

2 thoughts on “84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff”

  • I’m glad you enjoyed the first book! I knew she wrote other stuff, but not that there was a “sequel” to the first. Based on what you’ve said, I don’t feel any need to read it.
    Kelly recently posted…Instagram photos #32My Profile

    • I loved the first book and I’m glad you shared your thoughts on it. The second one is better to be avoided, especially as the first one was so lovely. xx

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