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Sunday, January 3, 2016

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff and the 2016 Reading Challenge

It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene's sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.

First off I have done a little bit of reading already in 2016, mainly things I re read whilst bored on New Years Day. However, 84, Charing Cross Road was a delightful way to ring in the new Year.

My husband and I are doing a 2016 book challenge, the list is pictured above. We started with recommendations from each other for the month of January. He is going to read 13th Child by Patricia C Wrede, which is one of my favorites. I, on the other hand, was given a slim non fiction novel...the inside pages simply the correspondence of Helene Hanff and 20 years worth of back and forth letters between herself and an English book store.

This book was simplistic and wonderful, I laughed, got teary eyed and gobbled it up in about an hours time. A proper review is difficult since there is no real plot, no "meat" to the story, so to speak. I cannot explain how beautiful this one tiny book is. If you love reading, especially if you love holding and smelling a book and the joy of physically owning them...you will love this novella.

Helen was funny, ordering books while not understanding how to translate the British Pound and sending goodies to employees at a book store during war ridden Britain where everything was rationed. Frank, his wife and other employees of Marks & Co were warm and genuine. All of which was abundant and very apparent in the brief letters they exchanged.

Sadly the book store mentioned in this novella is no longer there, something that made my heart chill. From the Wiki article:
The shop has since been knocked through into 24 Cambridge Circus, and the premises were converted for restaurant usage. A plaque on the wall commemorates the shop and the book. In May 2015, the premises was opened as a McDonald's. The sign remains on the front of 84's original building.

I find this appalling, after reading this novella I would like nothing more than to visit Helene's beloved book shop. I leave this review with a picture of the plaque that stands where the bookstore SHOULD STILL BE.

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