84 Charing Cross Road, Finished 1-20-15, rating 3/5, 97 pages, pub. 1970
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.
Oh, bah humbug! I chose this universally loved short book for my first Classics Club read and now I’m not sure if I’m even going to count it. Is it too short? Should it be a novel? Is it even a classic? Feel free to add your two cents.
Okay, now to my second problem, I just didn’t get all the fuss. I’ve read lots of reviews (some by you!) to try to convince myself that I liked it more than I did but it just isn’t happening. I feel like the only kid in the classroom who doesn’t get it and while I hate to raise my hand and show my cluelessness, here I am doing just that.
This book is a series of letters sent between Helene, a New York writer, and Marks & Co., Booksellers, a London bookstore, between the years 1949-1969. Helene is searching for hard-to-find books and Marks & Co. is happy to send them her way. Since this takes place during wartime and some foods are being rationed, Helene takes it upon herself to send the bookstore treats through the mail. The staff fall in love with her letters and her generosity. She mainly corresponds with Frank Doel, but many of the workers there send her letters and she sends them customers when friends travel to London.
Helene seems like a very cool New York woman who loves to read and educate herself. I would have loved to have met her in person. This sentiment is repeated in everyone who read her letters to the store and they were all hoping that they would get to meet the writer, but 20 years go by with just the exchange of letters and occasional gifts. The letters themselves were sometimes interesting, sometimes not, and often there were so many years between letters that it just fell flat for me.
That being said I am planning on watching the movie with Anthony Hopkins and Ann Bancroft and see if that can bring it to life for me 🙂