Monday, May 23, 2011

One Very Short Classic

On recommendation from my friend, and fellow blogger, Annette Gendler, I checked out a book from our library that is short, classic, entertaining and more. Annette wrote about the book at her blog a week or so ago

I read the book in one sitting for 84, Charing Cross Road is only 97 pages, has no foreword or afterword. Helene Hanff, a New York City resident and writer, carried on a correspondence with a bookstore in London for twenty years. The letters, and that is all you'll find in this book, cover a period of twenty years--1949 to 1969. The author purchases old and special edition books from the bookstore, and in the course of the twenty years, the letter writers build a relationship that melds into friendship. 

Ms. Hanff is often blunt and caustically funny but also generous and caring as we see in letter after letter. Frank Doel is at first the formal British businessman, but it isn't long before he allows himself to be himself in his letters. 

We see the progression in the lives of the bookstore personnel and also Ms Hanff as she moves from one type of writng to another, eking out a living and always planning a trip to England. The letters show a slice of history as we watch postwar Britain and the evolution in Ms Hanff's writing world when TV shows mesmerized the American public. We see the difference in cultures as well as the many similarities. And best of all, we are thoroughly entertained by these charming letters. 

Spend an afternoon or evening with 84, Charing Cross Road and I think you'll agree. Definitely a classic memoir. Thanks Annette, for recommending it.


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