When I first read 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, I became so immersed in it, I didn’t want to let it go. (Is that the definition of fanatic?) So I took a chance and called the author. Believe it or not, she answered the phone. Ms. Hanff was very gracious and kind as I praised the book to the sky and gave me about five minutes of her time, saying she appreciated her fans letting her know how much they enjoyed her work. We spoke of our shared experience of going to England and standing around wide-eyed like Alice in Wonderland, taking in all the sites we had read so much about. And laughing together because of the popular places neither of us wanted to visit. It endeared her (and her book) to me even more to learn she was such a down-to-earth and lovely person.
84 CCR is in a league of its own. If you haven’t read this wonderful tale and if you are a book-lover, please do yourself a favor and read it. The tale is based on an epistolary relationship between Hanff, a starving young-ish writer, and the staff of a London bookstore. It was 1949 and Hanff was having trouble in the post-war economy finding the books she needed and wanted, for a price she could afford. She found an ad for Marks & Co., an antiquarian bookstore operating at 84 Charing Cross Road, that offered out-of-print books at reasonable prices, wrote to them, and a correspondence began that lasted for more than 20 years. This book is a charmer. It lends a gentleness to the era that makes you wish you had been there.
The book was adapted to film in 1987 and was perfectly cast, with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft in the leading roles. The film has the same feel as the book and I recommend it highly. If I have ever fallen in love with a character from a movie, it is Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel.
Ms. Hanff has several other works to her credit. I think after reading 84 Charing Cross Road, you may want to search them out, as well. And remember, if we don’t have it, we can likely get it for you through Interlibrary Loan.
A few of her other titles that are available in our local library system are: