Book Review: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

I really wanted to start 2016 off by reading a really good book.  But it’s hard to know if the one in your hands is going to deliver on the hopes and promises.  It’s always a gamble, but sometimes you win the jackpot with a book.  And that is how I felt with this lovely, thin tome.

Let me get the first jarring bit out-of-the-way: it’s an epistolary novel.  If you are like me, that can turn you off more than entice you into the book.  I think it’s very hard to do something like this without it feeling gimmicky.  I am happy to say, once I got adjusted to the style, it made more sense and became a fun part of the book, not a distraction.

This is a witty, charming, and utterly delightful story of a correspondence between a bookshop in London and a single New Yorker, on the hunt for inexpensive but clean books from 1949 through 1969.  Her voice is clear and authentic.  She is a bit wry and has a brusque but generous personality that jumps off the page.  I smiled on page  3 and quite literally laughed out loud on page 5.  The shop owner’s voice is a fantastic counterpoint with his staid, and buttoned-up propriety in his correspondence.  And just as you are following these two people and their communiques, then new characters write letters and get introduced to the fold as the employees of this charming book shop in London.

What I loved in this little book was the intimate look back to a different era, and the ways people communicated and reached out to each other.  The caring shared among these people was palpable.  And the resounding themes that you are left with were of friendship, kindness, generosity, and the passage of time.

For this book review, I highly recommend this book for people who:

  • like post WW2 novels
  • want a cozy and life-affirming read
  • for book lovers
  • for people who love character driven stories

Have you read it?  If so, what did you think?  Please let your comments below.

84, Charing Cross Road Book Cover 84, Charing Cross Road
Helene Hanff
Literary Fiction
Penguin Books

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.