Read 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff Online


84, Charing Cross Road is 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' sc84, Charing Cross Road is 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."...

Title : 84, Charing Cross Road
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780380503773
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 220 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

84, Charing Cross Road Reviews

  • Brina
    2019-03-07 23:48

    As a child, I loved writing to pen pals. Anywhere I went that offered a chance to sign up to be a pen pal, I did with earnest. None of the pen pals ended up amounting to much, but it was thrilling to receive letters from them in the mail. I come from a line of pen pal writers as my mother wrote to an English girl her age for her entire childhood and teenaged years. It is not surprising then, that I one of the first books I reviewed on goodreads was Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey from Down Under to All Over by Geraldine Brooks, where Brooks details her own experiences with pen pals, one that eventually lead her to move to the United States and a career in writing. It comes of less of a surprise that I would be lead to 84, Charing Cross Road, a short book of correspondence by former television writer Helene Hanff. A proclaimed Anglophile who wrote to employees of the Marks and Company Book Shop in London over a twenty year period, Hanff published her letters in book form as a gift to future readers and letter writers.Helene Hanff is enamored by out of print, hard to find British literature. The only location close to her where she is able to obtain any just to look at is at the main branch of the New York City Public Library. Yet, that library is 50 blocks from her home and most of the time she is unable to bring the books she finds back to her apartment. The books she can read are new and do not have a history behind them. By chance, Hanff's upstairs neighbors are British, and they give her the name of Marks and Co. Starting in 1949, Hanff begins writing to Marks' employees requesting new or slightly used second hand copies of all things British, everything from Chaucer to Austen and all rare books in between. While Hanff has got to pay for the air mail and shipping fees, she is happy to do so as it opens a new world of books to her. What started as an enquiry becomes a twenty year correspondence with employees at the shop.The main pen pal Hanff wrote to was an employee named Frank Doel. In time, she also wrote to his wife and neighbor as well as other employees at Marks and Company. At first they referred to each other by names of ma'am and sir, but gradually they grew to use familiar names Helene and Frank. Engaging in intelligent conversations about books and about their lives, Hanff became emotionally invested in the lives of the Marks and Company family. Each year she would send the staff gifts of hard to find rationed items as meats, eggs, sugar, and nylon stockings. For this, they were forever grateful, going out of their way to send Hanff any book she requested, even an extremely rare copy of the Complete Works of John Donne. While money did not allow her to travel, Hanff had an open invitation to visit London and stay as a guest of any of the shop employees. What had started as a simple letter morphed into a lifelong friendship.The correspondence that Helene Hanff engaged in seemed as a precursor to goodreads as she discussed books with otherwise strangers on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Finding like minded readers from all over the world is one of the things I enjoy the most about goodreads, so I was drawn to Hanff and her quest to obtain British literature. Even though she was unable to visit London, Hanff's sincere writing left me with a smile as I envisioned her thrill of opening the letters and packages that emerged from a simple correspondence. With the majority of correspondence now done electronically, letter writing has become a lost art. Hanff's letters to Doel took me back to a simpler time, and that their relationship centered on books was only an added bonus.4+ stars

  • Jeanette
    2019-02-20 05:02

    "If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much."This was my second reading of the book, and I'm adding a star to my original rating. I laughed a lot harder this time, and even got a little choked up near the end. I don't recall this much chortling, cackling, guffawing and snorting on my first time through. The contrast between Helene Hanff's brash American informality and Frank Doel's staid British professionalism is delightful. There's a certain charm in his politeness, while at the same time one wonders how long it will take for him to loosen up. His first letter to Helene begins "Dear Madam", to which she replies: "I hope 'madam' doesn't mean over there what it does here." Her humor and generosity did slowly erode his reserve, but it took years. As she put it: "I write them the most outrageous letters from a safe 3,000 miles away."Outrageous they are, and charmingly witty. I remember when e-mail first started to take hold in the early 1990s. I was working for a professor who mentioned to me that it was ahistorical. We would henceforth have no permanent record of most of our written communication. His comments stayed in my mind while I happily made the switch from snail mail to electronic. Re-reading this little treasury of collected letters made me think perhaps we've lost more than just an outdated form of contact.

  • Luffy
    2019-02-18 03:03

    The epistolary meanderings of Helene Hanff and Frank Dole are insightful, playful in their coyness, and progressive in their development. This is an actual correspondence gone awfully right.There is a starkness of honesty in this correspondence. Yet the prose in the letters aren't quite as dry as might be feared. Like I said, the back and forth is progressive. There is definitely life in these letters. This real occurrence happens after the second world war(the last three words of which is a favorite book of mine). The books that are being requested by Helene are not the point of this book. It's just that there is a fictional value in these exchanges. These people lived. I enjoyed this little book immensely, hence the rating.

  • Glenn Sumi
    2019-03-05 04:37

    After hearing about this book for years, I finally stumbled upon a $2 ex-libris copy earlier this week at a used book sale. And without pausing I bought it. How appropriate! It consists of the correspondence, from the late 1940s until the late 1960s, between New York writer and bibliophile Helene Hanff and Frank Doel, an employee at Marks & Co. Booksellers at the eponymous address in London. Hanff was a voracious, eclectic reader who couldn’t find good American editions of the books she wanted to read. Responding to an advertisement in a periodical, she wrote to Marks & Co., and began her two decades-long epistolary relationship with Doel.Her chatty, witty and often teasing letters requesting books and Frank’s more conservative, straightlaced missives form the backbone of the work. As their long-distance, customer-bookseller relationship evolves, Hanff occasionally writes to other store employees, as well as Doel’s wife, the couple’s daughters and the family’s elderly neighbour. What gradually emerges is a gentle and moving look at two kindred spirits united by their love of the printed word. Hanff’s descriptions of the physical books are so vivid I can practically smell and feel the sturdy covers and the thick, creamy pages. The book also touches on their differing cultures, Hanff’s writing characterized by frank forthrightness, Doel’s, although no less friendly, by a certain civility and politeness.Their correspondence isn’t just about books, although there are some amusing, illuminating passages about Chaucer, Samuel Pepys, Jane Austen, John Donne and Laurence Sterne. Early on, Hanff also sends care packages of food and stockings to the bookstore, much-needed in a time of post-World War II rationing.And there are subtle glimpses into history and the changing nature of society: bookstore employees emigrate to other countries to try their luck; the Doels save up money to buy their first used car; Queen Elizabeth II is crowned; Beatlemania descends on London.But what I love most of all is the portrait that emerges of Hanff herself. A strong and independent single woman who would rather send cash in the mail than fuss with getting a money order, she starts out living in a tiny, cramped apartment and works her way up the publishing and radio drama worlds, drawing on much of her reading of literature (thanks to the packages from 84, Charing Cross Road) to create her plays. What I also admire is how uncluttered this book is. There were other letters, but Hanff trusts the reader to do the work to connect the dots. By reading a “reply” we can intuit what’s being replied to. There are no baggy, self-important, italicized passages about what’s in the letters themselves. And the graceful ending is stunning in its understatement.One more thought: Hanff and Doel’s comments about books and literature remind me of the Goodreads community I’ve found here. I likely will never meet (IRL as they say) the people whose reviews and updates I like and comment on, but that doesn’t mean our interactions aren’t profound, meaningful and lasting.This is a book, for and about book lovers, to cherish.

  • Angela M
    2019-03-14 01:52

    Letters, literature, friendships, kindness and humor fill the pages of this small volume. It's a gift from Helene Hanff to anyone who loves books. Not much more I can say except that all book lovers should read it . Long distance friendships and books - a lot like Goodreads .

  • Esil
    2019-02-20 06:45

    An easy 5 stars!I listened to this lovely short audiobook. It's completely charming. The voices are perfect. And in an odd way it reminded me of what I love about Goodreads. Strangers connecting over their mutual love of books. Slowly the book focused repartee morphs into a real sense of affinity and frienship.A bit of warmth to ease the dark cold days of November. A nice relief from the miserable state of world politics.I'm late to this party, but I highly recommend it -- especially the audio.

  • Trevor
    2019-02-18 01:38

    I love this book and love the film they made of it too. It is sloppy and sweet and warm and, you know, just right. It is the sort of book one could read in an hour or two over a pot of tea on a cold winter's afternoon and just enjoy. Pure delight.If you needed to be reminded that love of literature is as good a foundation of love of the world as any other 'religion', that the people we write to can be closer and dearer to us than those we see day after day - then this really is a book written to remind you of just that.

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-02-19 04:49

    Loved every single page of this wonderful little novel, told in letters. The lost art of letter writing, but amazing how much we can tell of the relationship between the author in New York and a bookstore in London. Requesting books to be sent to her she makes the acquaintance of Frank Dole, his wife, his neighbor and other employees of the bookstore. Starts out as a purely business relationship we can tell letter by letter as they become more friendly, discussing their families, friends, jobs and other events going on in the world at the time, particularly the rationing that was still in place in London after the war.Made me want to go out and buy a brand new gorgeous stationary set and write my friends some letters. Wonderful, wonderful book.

  • Annet
    2019-03-14 03:37

    A beautiful, sincere and humorous correspondence between a writer in New York (Helen) looking for unique books all the time and having them shipped over from Europe and a bookstore manager in London over the years.... Fun, nostalgic read with a smile.

  • PattyMacDotComma
    2019-02-25 02:37

    5★If you love books and letters, this is the book for you! People have been interacting kind of anonymously for a long time, without dating apps or the internet. I used to hand write letters back and forth to friends I seldom saw – now it’s emails and posts, but same banter, bluster, shared triumphs and tears. This is the most charming, funny, and touching book about a 20-year, long-distance correspondence which starts out as a relatively simple book order. Helene Hanff, a New York writer herself, gets rid of books she’ll never read again, is particular about the quality she's looking for, and has specific reading tastes accompanied by a very modest budget.The first letter, October 1949, is from Helene to Marks & Co at 84, Charing Cross Road, London, etc. “Gentlemen:Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase ‘antiquarian booksellers’ scares me somewhat, as I equate ‘antique’ with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes & Nobles’ grim, marked-up schoolboy copies.I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean secondhand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00 each, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?Very truly yours,Helene Hanff(Miss) Helene Hanff”Over the next few years, she corresponds with the staid Frank Doel (rhymes with Noel, he says), and as he and the staff take such particular care with her orders, she thanks them by arranging assorted food parcels (eggs, tinned meat, and the like) to be sent from Denmark – things they can’t get or are rationed in post-war England. Many letters, books and gift parcels later (she sends dollar bills in envelopes to pay!), she seems to have befriended everyone in the office, and keeps promising to get to England to visit in person.Then in 1955, she writes (her caps)“DO YOU MEAN TO SIT THERE AND TELL ME YOU’VE BEEN PUBLISHING THESE MAMMOTH CATALOGUES ALL THESE YEARS AND THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU EVER BOTHERED TO SEND ME ONE? THOU VARLET?Don’t remember which restoration playwright called everybody a Varlet, I always wanted to use it in a sentence.”A part that particularly touched me, because I’ve always loved reading my dad’s books with all his notes in the margin (American Lit professor, couldn’t help himself), was when she wrote:“I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages some one long gone has called my attention to.”I actually read a scan of a tattered copy of this, which rather nicely lent itself to the subject matter of old letters. It was kind of like reading someone else's dog-eared favourite. Absolutely delightful to watch the uninhibited Hanff gradually loosen up the stiff-upper-lipped bookstore people (and their families) and charm her way into their everyday lives. And vice-versa. Absolutely one of my favourite books now. Pity it's so short.

  • Britany
    2019-02-26 02:56

    I've known about his little gem for so many years, waiting for a special moment to finally dive in. I just love books filled with mementos and letters. I grew up sorting cards and old mail at my grandmother's house to the PostMan Books and now a grown up letter book. Helene Hanff is an American writer desperate to fill her reading dreams with editions of books she has trouble finding in the US. She starts a correspondence with an English bookstore. I ate up this book like a cat with a bowl of cream. Treasured each letter and the friendship that developed. Letters and conversation about books- the beauty of them, the written words, the jokes- this is a book lover's dream. The fact that this is non-fiction makes it all the better. My only complaint was that it was too dang short. I could've kept reading for many many more letters.Updated: just saw the movie and it was equally quaint, bookish, and nostalgic as the movie. 5/20/17

  • Caroline
    2019-03-08 06:53

    I have just re-read this book for about the fifth time. I think it ought to be compulsory reading every three or so years, or it should be imbibed medicinally if one is feeling generally under the weather.As everyone knows - it's the correspondence between the warm and bouncy American scriptwriter Helen Hanff, and the stuffy head buyer of an antiquarian bookshop in London called Frank Doel. Their correspondence spans from 1949 to 1969. Slowly, slowly, Hanff's warm letters melt Doel's English reserve. For all her frivolous outpourings Ms Hanff is well read, and a steady stream of classics find their way across the Atlantic from London to New York. But the traffic isn't all one way. Ms Hanff sends the staff members at the bookshop generous food parcels at Christmas - which are greatly appreciated, especially during the period of post war rationing. The affection between Helen Hanff and the staff of the bookshop cannot fail to melt the heart of any reader. The letters are a marvellous tribute to the joys of written communication, and the pleasure of having penfriends.I wasn't going to do a review of this book, except I have just been alerted to the fact that the film of the book, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins is showing on UK television tonight, at 10pm on the Drama channel. I have not been smitten with the trailer, but shall record it and give it a go over the next few days.

  • Vanessa
    2019-03-05 04:48

    An all too brief but enjoyable and witty collection of letters of correspondence between Helene Hanff from N.Y City and the various staff at Marks & Co. bookshop trading in antiquarian books in London. Lovely, endearing relationships form and you come to love the developing friendships that occur over the 20 year timespan. It's a shame that we have lost the art of letter writing, such a wonderful idea for a book and it's no wonder this became so popular when it was first published. A charming little book!

  • Lynne King
    2019-03-09 04:54

    As soon as I came across this book on Goodreads and read the blurb, I could see that all the literary ingredients I look for in a book were there in this series of letters between two individuals. Consequently I had to purchase it. Firstly, it was the personality of Helene Hanff, a Jewish writer in New York. I’ll just never tire of Jewish humor as it’s such a never-ending pleasure for me. Some of the “treasures” that pour from people’s mouths. As for New Yorkers, well words fail me in that regard, and in addition New York is a city that I love which throbs with life, noise, flavors and culture; plus the wonders of shopping there.Secondly, the booksellers were located in Charing Cross Road in London, a venue that I knew so well as a child, as my father often took me with him to browse around the many second-hand and antiquarian bookshops there. Nothing was more enjoyable for me than to see the smile or look of amazement on my father’s face when he found a book he had been searching for, or when he came across one he thought he would never see again. I must look for No. 84 when I go to London next month.Also, whenever, I finish a book and think back on it, I find there’s always a comment or paragraph that springs to mind, that remains as fresh as when I first read it, and it’s in the letter dated December 9, 1949:“FPD! CRISIS!I sent the package off. The chief item in it was a six pound ham. I figured you could take it to a butcher and get it sliced up so everybody would have some to take home.But I just noticed on your invoice it says: ‘B.Marks. M. Cohen.’ Props.ARE THEY KOSHER! I could rush a tongue over.ADVISE PLEASE. Helene Hanff”I loved it!Her requirement was to be provided with first edition books that were not to be found in New York. It’s truly remarkable though to see the methodical way in which Marks & Co. employees searched for these books.Also there was such generosity of mind and spirit on the part of Helene in sending food parcels as she was quite poor during that period. In addition, the UK still had rationing after the Second World War and this lasted until 1954, and so these food parcels were very welcome. It was a time when cod liver oil and orange juice were essential as vitamin supplements for children and were obtained from the local clinics. This twenty year period saw the development of the mental relationship between Helene and Frank Doel. I don’t believe there was anything beyond their friendship but it’s obvious there was a distinct affinity between them and Helene could be quite playful with him at times, even calling him Frankie when he always signed off his letters with Frank.Letter of September 18, 1952:“Frankie, guess who came while you were away on vacation? SAMUEL PEPYS! Please thank whoever mailed him for me, he came a week ago, stepped out of four pages of some tabloid, three honest navy-blue volumes of him. I do NOT intend to stop buying books, however you have to have SOMEthing. Will you see if you can find me Shaw’s dramatic criticism please? And also his music criticism? I think there are several volumes, just send me whatever you can find; now listen Frankie, it’s going to be a long cold winter and I babysit in the evenings AND I NEED READING MATTER, NOW DON’T START SITTING AROUND. GO FIND ME SOME BOOKS.”She gradually becomes friendly enough to find out about his Irish wife Nora and their two children Sheila and Mary; and constantly threatens to come to London:“You better watch out, I’m coming over there in 53 if Ellery is renewed. I’m gonna climb up that Victorian book-ladder and disturb the dust on the top shelves and everybody’s decorum.”She was at this stage writing scripts for Ellery Queen for television.The letters show such style, are so endearing and witty on Helene’s part as opposed to the gentle, kind and sober side of Frank, and yet over time it becomes so apparent how much the pair of them appreciated each other.I do believe that the slowness of posting letters and awaiting replies enriched their relationship. None of this instant response that we have nowadays with e-mails, Skype, mobile phones, etc. Moments that sometimes flash by with such speed that they are soon forgotten. The slowness and the anticipation of life are sometimes so essential to maintaining one’s own inner spirit and equilibrium.I just loved this gem of a book. I read it in one sitting and not one disturbance was allowed; even going without my eagerly awaited dinner that is cooked for me.

  • Srinivas
    2019-02-23 05:37

    Every one who likes to read books, who likes to write about books, who likes to talks about books, who likes to buy 2nd hand books, who likes the lavish smell of books,who likes to sniff the pages before they buy books.MUST read this book.

  • Pradnya K.
    2019-03-19 01:37

    I was browsing through the books, stumbled across it, got curious to know what hides behind this address and read the first letter. Then read the second with amusement. Then third with curiosity. By the fourth letter I was completely drown into it.It's a story of an American lady who orders books from a used books bookstore in London at the address 84, Charing Cross Road. The correspondence between her and the employees from the bookstore over twenty years was published as a book and got undreamed-of publicity. It starts with her letter in response to the advertising which says the book shop deals in antiquarian books. The author, Helena writes that the antiquarian books are costly and she cannot afford them but if they have her requested books within her budget she'd like to buy them. She receives some of the books and pays by enclosing money in the letter itself. The correspondence starts here and we get to know a reader with distinct taste in literature, her life, about her assignments as a scriptwriter and a lot more. She sends some gifts, mostly eatables, to London as she learns that these things are rationed in London. The staff at the bookstore Marks & Co. especially one named Frank Doel replies her letters. Soon, one by one, most of them write replies, and Helena get to know more about them. Though the letters are filed in the bookstore, they soon break the famous British reserve and what a treat it is to read them! They are full of friendly humor, wit, trust and kindness. “I feel vaguely guilty about owning it. All that gleaming leather and gold stamping and beautiful type belongs in the pine-paneled library of an English country home; it wants to be read by the fire in a gentleman’s leather easy chair—not on a secondhand studio couch in a one-room hovel in a broken-down brownstone front." Doesn't it give a good account of one's personality?I had a penfriend; we exchanged letters through post when internet had yet to enter the daily lives in India. I always received a lot of letters from other friends but this one I hadn't met then. We had a common friend and my pen friend always read my letter. One day she wrote a note, asking can we be penfriends? I was so delighted to read it. It's a completely different thing to know people, by letters. Of course, these days messengers are quite common and we meet many people over social media and later meet them in real life. It's just that they don't hold the charm of old snailmail and waiting for them. This is a novella one would finish in a couple of hours. But in that short duration it makes you smile, fills your heart with pleasure, makes you respond to the kindness, takes you to the old days where reading by fireplace was not a rarity, and brings tears to your eyes bidding final goodbyes to the writers.

  • Aldrin
    2019-03-02 01:07

    The present is an undeniably significant time in the realm of books. It’s a time when the nature and limits of books are being redefined so aggressively that to enclose the very term in scare quotes does not necessarily amount to a vagary in punctuation. The mostly static evolution of books is now approaching a flash point, that is, if it hasn’t yet been reached. The signs are as clear as Truman Capote’s favorite Russian vodka. Accompanied by the consistent rise in the sales of books in their various electronic iterations, Kindles, iPads, and Nooks are taking the place of the codex format in the hands of readers. Bookstores, if not downsizing their personnel or reducing their floor area, are shutting down their operations entirely. It’s a terribly different landscape from that of two, three, or four decades ago, when books were books (prefixes like “e-” or “enhanced” and suffixes like “pdf” and “epub” were not yet conceived and required as qualifiers), bookstores were brick-and-mortar establishments run by real people, and a certain book lover had to write to a bookseller thousands of miles away just to get the books that she wanted.The present is a setting into which the reappropriation of the essential elements of the story of “84, Charing Cross Road,” one of the most beloved books about books and people who love them, is virtually impossible. This nonfiction book, first published in 1970, is very much a product of its time. Formally it’s a collection of letters between a struggling freelance writer in New York City and a used bookstore employee in London. Letters! Do people even send those—old-fashioned snail mail—anymore? Surely e-mail, Twitter, or telepathic grunting hasn’t completely replaced it? LOL colon capital P. And a used bookstore? In this day and age, more and more readers are wont to ditch a visit to a nearby bookstore, used or not, knowing they could easily get a copy of a book they want with just a click of their computer mouses or a tap on their touchscreen devices. Helene Hanff, the person at the American side of the transatlantic correspondence that forms the spine of “84, Charing Cross Road,” had neither a computer mouse (unless it’s of the rodent sort, to which her modest apartment might have proved comfortable) nor a touchscreen device. What she had in the way of an input mechanism and a processor was her trusty typewriter, on which she wrote on the 5th of October 1959 a letter of inquiry to the staff of Marks & Co., a used bookstore located at 84, Charing Cross Road, London, England. “I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes & Noble’s grimy, marked-up schoolboy copies,” she explained. “I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean second-hand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00 each, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?” Thus began the exceptional long-distance friendship between Hanff and Frank Doel, the chief agent of the bookstore who rigorously responded to her inquiries. Indeed, there were many more inquiries beyond Hanff’s initial wishlist, for books ranging from the popular to the obscure. Her incessant badgering about the books that Doel had so far failed to send coupled with his meek apologies for his apparent idleness is the source of most of this book’s lighthearted humor. It’s often entertaining to flip from a page containing Hanff’s jocular remarks into another with Doel’s shy reply. On one occasion she, having been hired as a scriptwriter for a murder mystery TV series where “all the suspects and corpses are cultured,” asked whether he would want to be “the murderer or the corpse” in an episode she’d like to do “about the rare book business in his honor.” A month and a half later he replied, “Your Ellery Queen scripts sound rather fun. I wish we could have the chance of seeing some of them on our TV over here—it wants livening up a bit (our TV I mean, not your script).” Whereas Hanff was of frank and lively disposition, Doel’s manner, as behooved his Britishness, was formal and precise, especially at first and sometimes to a fault. “I keep trying to puncture that proper British reserve,” Hanff wrote in a letter to one of Frank’s co-workers, “if he gets ulcers I did it.” That letter was one of the many others which were not addressed to Doel but were included in the collection as they greatly supplemented the two main correspondents’ bookish banter. Soon after the first few exchanges between Hanff and Doel, other employees of Marks & Co. and members of his family became pen pals with her and offered their thoughts on a variety of topics, including the British royalty, postwar deprivation, Yorkshire pudding, and, of course, Doel himself. Also included were several letters from Hanff’s friend, Maxine, who had the chance to visit the bookstore at 84, Charing Cross Road: “It is the loveliest old shop straight out of Dickens, you would go absolutely out of your mind over it.” To be sure, Hanff did go out of her mind in her reply to Maxine, where she expressed her deep longing to see and smell the shop herself. Redolent of obsolescence (or is that nostalgia?) from the standpoint of a twenty-first century citizen (or netizen, as it were), the correspondence between Hanff and the people of 84, Charing Cross Road, which lasted for an amazing two decades, is above all symptomatic of a condition that was in full sway then among the more dedicated of readers but is arguably less prevailing now in the digital era: bibliophilia. “I never knew a book could be such a joy to touch,” Hanff wrote a month after sending out her first letter, upon the arrival of a proper match for one of the items in her list. It’s titled “Virginibus Puerisque,” the first collection of essays by Robert Louis Stevenson, which, Hanff told Doel, was “so fine it embarrasses my orange-crate bookshelves, I’m almost afraid to handle such soft vellum and heavy cream-colored pages,” and was in stark contrast to “the dead-white paper and stiff cardboardy covers of American books.” Ah, the visual, tactile, and sometimes olfactory pleasures of book porn. Imagine a present-day Hanff experiencing a similar high from caressing and staring at her Kindle after successfully downloading the same Stevenson collection in e-book format from Project Gutenberg for much less than $5 (read: free). You can’t. You just can’t, for there are “book” lovers, and then there are book lovers. And Hanff, belonging to the latter sort, would sooner defenestrate the Kindle than read a “book” on it.

  • Madeleine
    2019-02-28 02:52

    In the interest of full disclosure (or because putting myself on display via book reviews is a more palatable vehicle for my innermost self these days than, say, the more self-respectingly private venue of a journal is), I originally wrote this review as a series of letters between 84, Charing Cross Road and me, but it was one of those times when emulating the format just wasn't working (for one thing, I kept writing the book's responses far too snarkily, which I think may have been the result of being rubbed the wrong way by Ms. Hanff early on in the book, probably because she seems far more at ease with busting out the joshing jocularity during the fledgling stages of a friendship than I will ever be). In that same vein, you probably also need to know it is with a mug of bright red tea on one side and a bottle of even redder wine on the other as Zep serenades me across the decades through my computer speakers (which, at a certain point, will be reduced to me playing my two favorite songs over and over until I'm satisfied enough to let the album end) that I am sitting here trying to formulate something vaguely resembling a proper tribute to a book that is, at its heart, a love letter to the bonds that are born of a shared love of reading. Is there a more perfect book than 84, Charing Cross Road to discuss on a site that has led so many of us to friendships that began with books? How many casual comments or hesitant pushes of the "add as a friend" or "follow reviews" buttons were disguised as auspicious beginnings to an ever-deepening bond with someone you may never meet face-to-face but consider a close friend? How many countless times have we reaped the real-life benefits -- be it a change of mood for the better over some well-timed kind words or the always welcome surprise of a mailed package of books -- of the digital realm because of the connections we've made on this site?What begins with a poor writer's quest to feed her lust for antiquated book becomes a volley of letters and exchanging of goods across the pond as Helene Hanff and the staff of a London bookstore forge the kind of close-knit kinship I've never even had with my own family. While Hanff's early letters did not endear her to me at all, I realized the fault was probably my own by the time her first shipment of foodstuffs made its way to her ration-constricted pen-pals at Marks & Co. And that's about when I realized this book was going to tell me a little somethin'-somethin' about how actions have a way of speaking louder than words and that maybe I ought to ignore the little judgmental voice in my head that just loves to run its hypothetical mouth. Because there is a current of fondness that is just rushing through these letters that transcends distance and time and circumstance and is just impossible to ignore as the epistolary narrative subtly betrays just how much platonic love and friendly admiration exist among Hanff, her primary writing buddy Frank, his wife and the coming-and-going cast of characters who help keep the bookshop running. The ongoing disappointment of Hanff's many thwarted attempts to visit London and her long-distance friends is what resonated the most poignantly with me, as I am all too familiar of how the best-laid plans seem to fall apart spectacularly at the least opportune times. There is a point when some of Hanff's hometown chums travel abroad and wind up at Marks & Co., only to find themselves "nearly mobbed" once they mentioned their common comrade to the shop's staff. Not too long after that, a letter lobbed to Hanff from the usually reserved Frank contains the line "... one more summer will bring us every American tourist but the one we want to see" and I very nearly dissolved into a puddle. If I hadn't already been charmed by the folks populating this charming testament to how the longevity of friendships is not dictated by proximity but rather by personality, that would have been the line that both swayed and slayed me.The sweetness of these letters is not tainted by a saccharine sentimentality, and Hanff's earnest pursuit of good reads remains unmarred by pretentious showmanship. It is, actually, not entirely unlike what I imagine what would happen if one were to follow the course of a GR-forged correspondence across two decades, only that I hope you folks are all still around to reap the royalty benefits by then. Because I am half a bottle of wine poorer than I was when I began this "review," I can now safely use this book as an excuse to sloppily profess my love for you guys before passing out as inelegantly as possible. Consider this my drunk-dialed midnight confession of affection to you all, which, I think, is exactly why a book like this exists in the first place.

  • Elyse
    2019-03-05 05:56

    I received this book in the mail (a surprise gift) -- so I read it 'on the spot'. The book is only about 100 pages long --but a charming read (one I'm glad I read).This is an older book (first published in 1970)....The year I graduated High School. The author Helene Hanff, a freelance writer was living in New York City. She spent twenty years corresponding to a used book dealer in London. (they did not do this over the internet). ***SLOW MAIL***!Though never meeting in person, they shared a common love for books. This 'little' book is a collection of the letters between them. I had a lump in my throat! --- This little 'gem' warmed my heart!

  • Syl
    2019-02-19 05:03

    It was a small book, interesting to read. But after the first quarter, I started having a few issues with it, these being,1. I was frequently confused about the person who was replying to Helene's letters - I got mixing up the workers in the quaint bookshop2. The letters started seeming monotonous, with Helen either happy or berating Mark and Co for the books they send/didn't send3. Helene ordering books from London which had to be shipped to New York didn't make sense. What about the shipping charges? If she were a rich, eccentric collector of British editions, I would understand. But she often stated that she was not rich.4. The tone of the letters were a bit eccentric. I understand writing like that to close friends, but writing in a breezy manner, that too a business letter for the first time didn;t sit well with me.5. I found mention of all the pounds, pennies, shillings and dollars boring as I had no means of converting those to rupees, and then again accounting for the inflation values then and now5. Mine and Helene's viewpoints didn't match on many things, notable ones being: - she preferred only non fiction, whereas I preferred fiction - for all her book love, she says she doesnt believe in keeping books, and that she did spring cleaning and even threw away unwanted books into the waste paper basket. This shocked meAnd what mattered to me and Helene was:1. Love for books2. The urge to possess new books I loved reading about the slowly budding friendship between the slightly eccentric American seeker and the stiff upper lip sort of British providers of books.I liked all the workers. I envied them their shop. I wish I had something like Mark and Co. to look forward to. But so far, the bookstores I have visited have been highly impersonal.I so long for a bookshop near my home, whose owner/proprietor becomes a close friend and allows me to haunt it for hours together.I loved the pictures peppered here and there.I almost cried when (view spoiler)[ Frank Doyle died, and the bookshop got demolished.(hide spoiler)]

  • Book Concierge
    2019-03-06 00:57

    In October 1949 Helene Hanff, a single woman living and working in her small New York apartment, responded to an ad placed in the Saturday Review of Literature by Marks & Co, a bookshop in London that specialized in used books. Thus began a two-decade long correspondence and friendship between the reserved bookseller and the irrepressible Miss Hanff. What a delight it is to be allowed to watch this growing relationship, fueled by a shared love of books, and an ability to laugh at oneself and one’s follies. I laughed aloud in places. I shared her outrage at books being torn apart to use as wrapping, and then agreed with Frank Doel’s explanation on the practicality of this practice. I marveled at their generosity – not just in the gifts they gave one another, but more importantly, their generosity of spirit, how they gave so freely of their thoughts, gratitude, wishes, grievances, and forgiveness. I saw the movie, starring Anne Bancroft, many years ago. As I read the letters, I could not help but picture Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins as Helene and Frank. I’m so happy that Hanff decided to publish it, and that Doel’s family gave their wholehearted permission and encouragement to her to do so.As with most books I read these days, I got this from the library, but I’m going to go out and buy a copy for myself. It’s the kind of book I’ll read over and over just for the sheer joy of it.

  • Ij
    2019-02-21 07:00

    This memoir was a great read. It consisted of letters primarily between Helene Hanff, the author, and Frank Doel, an employee of Marks and Company, Booksellers. The title of the book 84, Charing Cross Road was the address to the bookshop, in London. The letters started on October 5, 1949 and continued back and forth for almost twenty (20) years. In the first letter, Ms. Hanff describes herself as a “poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books.” These books she thought to be too costly in New York City where she resided. She was seeking to purchase these type books from London for a lesser price, “no more than five (5) dollars each.”Over the years, Ms. Hanff purchased many book and established a relationship with Doel, his wife, other employees of the bookshop, and even a neighbor of Doel’s.Authors often write memoirs the way they remember and sometimes how the wished things had happened. I think that since the author here used letters there was less room for her to embellish her story. Through reading the letters one gets a sense of history through the current events written about.

  • Francisco H. González
    2019-02-25 00:56

    ¡Qué grandeza de libro contenida en tan poca extensión¡. Había leído alguna novela anteriormente como Contra el viento del norte basada también en un intercambio epistolar (en aquella ocasión era un intercambio de correos electrónicos), pero allí lo que se dirimía era si al final los dos tórtolos epistolares llegarían a verse las caras y los cuerpos. Aquí no media el amor, sino el afecto que surge entre una americana amante de los libros y de las palabras y los empleados de una librería de segunda mano sita en Londres. Surge un intercambio de misivas avivado por el genio y descaro de ella, Helene, la cual va construyendo una relación con buena parte de los destinatarios de sus cartas, al ir estas secundadas por viandas que son muy bien recibidas en el Londres racionado de la posguerra. Lo jodido es que la vida pasa, las cartas van y vienen como los años, la parca va haciendo su trabajo y al final solo quedan los buenos recuerdos y la añoranza de lo que no llegó a consumarse. Novela que me ha resultado muy triste, a la par que luminosa, porque Helene nos muestra la vida sin edulcorantes, una realidad aderezada con humor y mucho empuje. Un valor añadido es lo relacionado con lo libresco: los subrayados que Helene Hanff (1916-1997) lleva a cabo en los libros que le gustan para los posibles futuros lectores, los libros malos de los que se desprende sin miramientos, los comentarios sobre las novelas -como las de Austen- que lee, las traducciones que cercenan libros dejándolos sin sustancia alguna, el no comprar un libro que no haya leído antes (algo que a mí me resulta muy difícil de cumplir), y su amor hacia el libro como un objeto imperecedero y de culto, ahí quedan las descripciones de las encuadernaciones, del tacto de las portadas, de los lomos de piel...; unos cuantos detalles en suma, que me han complacido enormemente.

  • Stephanie Anze
    2019-02-22 05:02

    Helene Hanff is a writer in New York. When she is unable to find some rare and out-of-print books, she turns her attention to a second-hand bookstore in London. Hanff writes a letter to the establishment and receives a warm reply from Frank Doel, the main buyer for the store. Doel writes that he could track down the titles she wants and the two of them start a steady correspondance. Thus begins a beautiful friendship.This is a gem of a book. I love it even more knowing that its a real friendship that lasted over twenty years. Helene Hanff finds, not only the books that she is seeking but also a true and trusted friendship with Doel and the staff at 84 Charing Cross Road. With charm, heart and humour this is a booklover's dream. Its also a testament to the power of words and literature. Frank Doel himself is quite the character. Written entirely in letter form, this is a work that while short, packs a punch. The comparisons to 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society' are absolutely warranted. In a time when technology plays such a big role in our lives, it was actually quite refreshing that this entire exchange was done through hand written letters and "snail mail". Highly recommended.

  • Maria Clara
    2019-03-12 06:51

    No creo que vaya a decir nada que no se haya dicho ya sobre esta pequeña joya, pero hay una cosa que me ha llamado la atención: la inocencia que hemos perdido. Es decir, la amistad que surge entre un grupo de gente, que vive a miles de kilómetros de distancia, por una carta. Creo que esta es la magia del libro.

  • Laysee
    2019-02-25 05:02

    84 Charing Cross Road chronicles a beautiful twenty-year relationship between an American reader of antiquarian books and Marks & Co. Booksellers, London. The latter ‘is the loveliest old shop straight out of Dickens’. It has very old grey oak shelves that smell of age and dust going up to the ceiling. This epistolary book contains the correspondence from 1949 to 1969 between Ms. Helene Hanff, a penurious writer who loves antiquarian books, and Frank Doel, the knowledgeable and efficient bookstore manager, and later, his wife Nora and other staff members . Every letter is a joy to read. It was lovely to witness the stiff and formal nature of the correspondence give way to warmth and affection as the correspondents develop a friendship across the miles. This quirky American with a lively wit and an infectious sense of humor is determined ‘to puncture that proper British reserve’. It takes three years before “Dear Madam” becomes “Dear Helene”. It made me laugh to read, “Now listen Frankie, it’s going to be a long cold winter and I babysit in the evenings and I need reading matter. Don’t sit around, go find me some books!” Helene, a writer of TV scripts and children’s history books, lives in a small apartment in a brown stone house in New York, and yet she generously sends food parcels (fresh eggs!) to the employees in Marks and Co., during those postwar food rationing years in the UK. Her thoughtfulness is greeted with profound gratitude and importunate invitation from her UK friends to come visit, what to Helene is, ‘the England of English Literature’.Anyone who loves books will certainly identify with the rapturous thrills Helene gets when a rare book or an exquisitely bound edition makes its way to her. On receiving the first edition of John Henry’s Newman Discourses on the Scope and Nature of University Education, Helene writes this to Frank, “I never saw a book so beautiful. I feel vaguely guilty about owning it. All the gleaming leather and gold stamping and beautiful type belongs to the pine-panelled library of an English country home...” And on the ‘fellowship’ of second-hand books, Helene shares this precious thought: “I love inscriptions on fly leaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages someone long gone had called my attention to.” It surprises me a little that Helene seems to disdain fiction. She says unapologetically, “...I never can get interested in things that didn’t happen to people who never lived.” That is until she finally reads Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and in her next letter to Frank, confesses a change of heart and orders a copy. Soon she recounts, “P-and-P arrived looking exactly as Jane ought to look - soft leather, slim and impeccable.” Later she introduces a friend to P-and-P and reports “she has gone out of her mind for Jane Austen.” I had a big smile on my face reading these exchanges. 84 Charing Cross Road is pure delight. I had to buy a hard copy as no Kindle edition was available. It has been a while since I read a physical book whose pages I can flip back and forth with ease. This brings to mind what Helene says “..I never knew a book would be such a joy to the touch.” It sure is. 84 Charing Cross Road is a book lover’s book. It will also endear itself to any member of the Goodreads community. Highly recommended.

  • Mark
    2019-03-15 06:42

    Another of those books which take no time to read but are an absolute joy every time you revisit them. The story of a flamboyant, generous, intelligent american woman and her friendship with a seemingly much quieter but equally generous and humourous english bookseller. Their mutual love of literature and all things book is the initial leaping off point but their friendship extends over 20 years and covers momentous changes, in british society certainly. These changes are hinted at gently, referred to in passing but over it all extends this decent, kindly, generous pair of hands joined at the bookshelves as it were though, somewhat sadly, they never actually get to meet.Having said that I have often wondered, in reading the book, whether i am pleased they never met, so that their friendship remained intriguingly long distance or whether i am saddened by the missed opportunities for it to go deeper. I am not one of the readers who think they were in love with each other. Nothing in the letters suggests that to me. Theirs was a friendship pure and simple but it is interesting to think that this book would never exist nowadays because telephone, email, skype and all things 21st Century would have prevented the gentle deepening of their relationship.The gradual softening and opening out is lovely to follow but the immediacy of 21st Century communication would, I think, rather ironically have prevented this burgeoning because the whole narrative through the letters is of Frank Doel slowly becoming more relaxed and in tune with the more abrasive approach of Helene Hanff. This would not happen now. Judgements would be made quickly and decisively, carved into stone and no amount of drip, drip, drip would change them. The slow back and forth of letter and request and invoice in the now long lost bookish atmosphere of the late 40's and 50's served to gradually dig out the foundations upon which they built their lovely, eccentric and, for any booklover, immediately recognizable friendship.

  • Srividya
    2019-03-08 05:52

    "No Man is an Island, entire of itself; Every man is a Continent; a part of the Main"So said John Donne and I have to say that I quite agree with him. Even the self confessed loner isn't exactly alone and if I have to stray a little further, much to the screams of those who call themselves loners, I will say that they form relationships as well; often long and most cherished relationships. Before the naysayers attack me with their words, I shall confess and say that, relationships aren't merely created with other persons or should I say animate things but are often with the inanimate and the obscure and often the invisible as well. While we may prefer to sequester the word relationships into steady and exact boundaries, we often find it difficult to do so. Our relationships often include those with our books, music, art, science philosophy, thoughts, enigmas, imaginations and the list definitely goes on. And when we bond with such inanimate or obscure objects, we find that we aren't really alone in this world because there are some who share that same relationship or maybe a similar one; and then begins the bond, the relationship and the lack of loneliness even when we are alone. Thoughts and ideas mingle and interact with each other bringing about a conversation so beautiful, so emphatic and yet so enigmatic that even if all the world were to be destroyed, we would still have those in our hearts and minds to keep us alive till kingdom come. So, I believe, John Donne is perfectly right when he says those above words. My interpretation might be wrong of the exact poem but I think this interpretation fits this review perfectly. This epistolary novel, which created a whirlwind of emotions throughout the world after its publication, leading to its immense popularity, which in turn led to it being added to my own humble little reading list, actually began by accident of chance. An obscure letter written by the author living in the US to a small antiquary bookshop in the UK was that chance that began this wonder called 84, Charring Cross Road. A relationship was formed, not only between the author and the various characters of the bookshop but also between the author and the readers and between these readers themselves. A simple letter became the start of so much emotion and so much chaos and tumult, albeit positively, in the lives of many. Isn't it obvious why I still love to write letters or people love to write reviews or authors love to write books? A relationship - that's the basis of all this. A relationship with words that somehow becomes a relationship between individuals, making even a loner part of a family.Helene Hanff, in this beautiful book, shows us how a struggling playwright without much funds could create a wonder and show the world that bonding does not believe in boundaries and neither does it bow down to distances. The heart and mind is capable of so much more than we believe it to be capable of. The limit, I believe, lies in our own minds and thoughts, and not really in the organs by themselves. So, why do we put up these borders, these boundaries, these limitations? Why not just allow it to soar? Fear? Is that it? Fear of rejection, fear of inability to sustain oneself if things were to go wrong, fear of losing more than we gain? Quite possible! This fear provides us with too many limitations, making it impossible for us to go beyond. However, Ms. Hanff, through this very small and simple and in parts funny while in parts monotonous novel, brings to light a ray of hope. Hope that love and relationship knows no distance, fears no loss, accepts no limitations and will soar despite all trials and tribulations. Her correspondence with Frank Doel at the beginning and then the inclusion of other parties to that correspondence, including the family of Frank Doel, shows us that relationships can be forged through mere letters, sight unseen. Confidences can be shared and bonds can be forged between like minded individuals, if we were so determined to do. From humorous belittling of certain books to the joy of getting that perfect one, from the stiff upper lip British reserve to the easy camaraderie of sharing recipes, this book is definitely a delight for those who choose to see the beauty behind the words, the angst and joy expressed in words that are often shocking (when she talks about tearing books apart, which am sure all book lovers will cringe at) and yet so endearing (when she talks about how her own humble abode with its plain bookshelf isn't the best place for a book that has gleaming leather, gold stamping and beautiful type).Through her letters, Ms. Hanff, not only shares her interest in books but also gives us a glimpse of her life, her struggles, her joys, her views, her own attempts at writing. And she does this in a style that is direct and honest whilst also being truly generous and caring. That she begins to care for those people who work in the bookshop is clear from the manner in which she takes time to read and know what hardships they were facing in their country. And this caring was truly reciprocated is also clear by the way the British reserve melts and she forms a place in their hearts forever. In this current dog eat dog world, such old fashioned caring, which often went beyond her means, shows that empathy and love still exists. That people don't really need material benefits to bond with each other, they simply need to care and empathise. I guess, you could say that this was the most important lesson in this book. As I was reading this, I turned nostalgic, and recollected my experiences in these past few years, especially after joining the Goodreads forum. I believe that Helene Hanff would have been totally pleased with this forum and the kinds of bonds that we as patrons create and nourish and of course cherish. The intellectual bond gives way to an emotional bond that is way too strong and important for us to allow petty stuff to get in between. Does this mean that it doesn't have drama? No, not at all. In fact, relationships are forged stronger with some drama, with some pain and often sorrow as well. We see all this in Ms. Hanff's book and I find it same with me and my Goodreads friends as well. Some of my most cherished friendships are with people here and I know that it wouldn't matter if we were to disappear tomorrow for when we meet, we shall pick up from where we left; just as Ms. Hanff did after (view spoiler)[Frank Noel died (hide spoiler)]. In a world, where there is so much strife, so much negativity, so much chaos, books like these give us hope that it doesn't have to be like that. I won't be naive and say that all things will change for the better or that strife and negativity and chaos won't exist. However, I do feel that these small anchors allow you that moment of bliss, give you that simple peace, appreciate your loner nature and yet carry you forward in this maze called life by simply saying 'You are not alone'.I would definitely recommend this book to everyone. It is a small book but one packed with a lot of meaning, if you were to get your teeth into it by biting below the surface and exploring it with a respect that it deserves.

  • Diane Barnes
    2019-02-26 02:56

    5 stars for exactly what this is: A tiny little masterpiece of letter writing, friendship, and books. This was a re-read for me, when I needed a break from a heavier read. 100 pages of sheer delight.

  • Cathy DuPont
    2019-03-08 03:53

    "I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages some one long gone has called my attention to." as stated in a letter from Helene Hanff to Frank Doel.So said Helene Hanff author of this little book in the form of an epistolary, the writing of letters, from Helene in New York City, to Marks & Co., Booksellers, 84, Charing Cross Road, London. The majority of the letters back to Helene were from Frank Doel, her primary contact at Mark & Co. From 1949 to 1969, 20 years, Helene requested antiquarian books and Frank supplied her orders, including little personal notes back. As time passed both got to know each other and through them, their friends and family. They were never to meet. Although I'm not a sentimental person, I cried at the end and not because it was sad, not at all. This was simply the sweetest book I've read in years and will stay on my shelf with a note on the fly leaf or endpaper, saying how much I loved this book and include today's date. My only regret is I didn't read it years ago.