Review: 84, Charing Cross Road

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene HanffHelene Hanff, 84, Charing Cross Road

This slim collection of letters chronicles the friendship between Helene Hanff, an American writer, and the employees of an antiquarian bookstore located at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. Hanff initially wrote to the bookstore after seeing their newspaper ad because she wanted a book she couldn’t get locally. Her often humorous demands for books initiated a lively correspondence between herself and the bookstore employees, a correspondence that soon led to deep and long-lasting friendships.

I loved this book, as I think any bibliophile would. The letters between Hanff and her various correspondents reveal a deep love of books, both their content and the quality of their binding. It was wonderful to read the booksellers’ descriptions of the various volumes they were planning to send Hanff — things along the lines of, “it’s a good clean copy bound in red leather.” Most of the letters are also uproariously funny; Hanff seems like a tremendously entertaining person to be around. My only complaint is that the book is extremely short, less than 100 pages. I wish more of the letters had been included! Nevertheless, I’d highly recommend this book to anyone, especially literary types looking for a good laugh.

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