Tuesday, December 30, 2008
84 Charing Cross Road
I was guided to this book by several people after I raved about my love for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Now that I've read it, I can see how the two books are similar, although I did prefer the satisfying fiction in Guernsey.
84 Charing Cross Road is a sweet, short book containing the correspondence between Helene Hanff, a gregarious and irreverent writer living in New York, and the much more formal workers of the antique bookstore, Marks & Co. in Great Britain. The letters begin following World War II and Helene's warmth and generosity (she sends them things that are difficult to get over there with rations. Eggs. Nylons. Canned tongue Blech!) brings down their professional front until a clear friendship develops.
Obviously, each correspondence isn't included as the book progresses 20 years and there is sometimes nearly a year between letters. Still, I found Helene's humor and charm to be every bit as disarming as Frank Doel and the others at Marks & Co did. To be centered around their common love of books makes it only more lovable.
As it is non-fiction, the story ends realistically and not nearly as satisfying as a feel-good novel. Still, I love that Helene published these hard copies of proof about the power of correspondence and friendship.