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84, Charing Cross Roadis a charming record of bibliophilia, cultural difference, and imaginative sympathy. For 20 years, an outspoken New York writer and a rather more restrained London bookseller carried on an increasingly touching correspondence. In her first letter to Marks & Co., Helene Hanff encloses a wish list, but warns, "The phrase 'antiquarian booksellers' scares me somewhat, as I equate 'antique' with expensive." Twenty days later, on October 25, 1949, a correspondent identified only as FPD let Hanff know that works by Hazlitt and Robert Louis Stevenson would be coming under separate cover. When they arrive, Hanff is ecstatic--but unsure she'll ever conquer "bilingual arithmetic." By early December 1949, Hanff is suddenly worried that the six-pound ham she's sent off to augment British rations will arrive in a kosher office. But only when FPD turns out to have an actual name, Frank Doel, does the real fun begin.

Two years later, Hanff is outraged that Marks & Co. has dared to send an abridged Pepys diary. "i enclose two limp singles, i will make do with this thing till you find me a real Pepys. THEN i will rip up this ersatz book, page by page, AND WRAP THINGS IN IT." Nonetheless, her postscript asks whether they want fresh or powdered eggs for Christmas. Soon they're sharing news of Frank's family and Hanff's career. No doubt their letters would have continued, but in 1969, the firm's secretary informed her that Frank Doel had died. In the collection's penultimate entry, Helene Hanff urges a tourist friend, "If you happen to pass by 84, Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me. I owe it so much."

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ISBN-10:  0140143505
ISBN-13:  978-0140143508
Author:  Helene Hanff
Genre:  Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction
Publisher:  Penguin
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review by . May 06, 2013
A charming book of acerbic, gracious, hilarious letters that chronicle a twenty-year correspondence.
Letter writing is such a pleasure in this technology driven age of e-mailing and texting, partly because it is such an intellectually contemplative and slower paced act. The fluid clarity of thinking and conveyance that letter writing requires has by its own right made it a beautiful and all engrossing art form, and there are a plethora of literary artists in which to choose from whose own letters are a delight to read. As an example, I would cite the letters of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to her editor …
review by . February 10, 2002
This wonderful book on the love of books and the love of selling books is heartwarming and absolutely charming. Easily read (the format is a series of letters) and absolutely enjoyable. I could actually imagine Helen`s apt as well as the bookstore in England.My only complaint is that they could have inserted more letters. The gaps between them was quite large at times.
review by . January 18, 2001
This novel is all letters- letters exchanged between someone who is interested in old classic books, and someone who sells them. What could be more dreary and dry I hear you asking yourself. Nothing could be further from the truth. What the story really chronicles is a story of a shared passion that becomes a friendship, and in reality an unspoken mutual admiration and eventually love over a 20 year period.It is simply delightful, and the use of the letters as a way of telling the story means that …
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