Google+ Bookslingers Blog: Dear, dear 84, Charing Cross Road

Dear, dear 84, Charing Cross Road

There are some books that are just dear to your heart and you can read over and over and over and (in some cases) over again. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is one of those books that I always turn to when I'm down or in a reading slump.
This book is a collection of letters between the brash American writer, Helene Hanff, and the Marks & Co. bookseller, Frank Doel. Hanff was a struggling writer with an antiquarian taste in books who wrote a desperate inquiry to the British bookshop as all she could find in New York were the "Barnes & Noble's grimy, marked-up schoolboy copies."

Her sarcastic, witty letters eventually melted Doel's British reserve and an epistolary friendship developed between one woman and an entire bookshop.

An intriguing book link is that the son of the bookshop's owner, Leo Marks, was a codemaker during WWII in SOE and wrote a thrilling book about his wartime experience:

84, Charing Cross Road is a delightfully true story about how books and a love of books (and powdered eggs) bring people together.

"I live for the day when I step off the boat-train and feel its dirty sidewalks under my feet. I want to walk up Berkeley Square and down Wimpole Street and stand in St. Paul's where John Donne preached and sit on the step Elizabeth sat on whens he refused to enter the Tower, and like that. A newspaper man I know, who was stationed in London during the war, says tourists go to England with preconceived notions, so they always find exactly what they go looking for. I told him I'd go looking for the England of English literature, and he said:

'Then it's there.'"