Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Review: 84, Charing Cross Road

About a million years ago, I asked here what I should pick for my book club book. Consensus here was to go for Paper Towns, but the ladies actually in the book club voted for 84, Charing Cross Road, so that's what we read*. Then life got in the way, and we pushed off book club a few times, but by the time we met, only three of us were able to come. Sigh... On the plus side, we had all read the book (which doesn't always happen) so that's good. Then again, 84, Charing Cross Road is 97 pages long, so even if we had met the week after we chose it, everyone probably would have read the book!

Despite its brevity, this is a really charming book. This is the correspondence between Helene Hanff and the London bookshop that she bought her books from. It was a tribute to the love of books and reading, and to a friendship that sprung up entirely through letter writing. I also liked how it was a wonderful window into another era (the 50's, mostly), like when Hanff would send care packages to the bookshop, conscious that they were still on rations from the war. My fellow book group goers and I were trying to decide what it would take to get one of us to eat powdered eggs in this age!

I highly recommend this little gem of a book to any of you who love books as much as I do. Plus, it will make you want to starting writing letters to your loved ones. And isn't it nice to get something in the mail?

Buy 84, Charing Cross Road on Amazon.

This book was also made into a play and later, a movie, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.

In a related item, the New York Times Paper Cuts blog calls the New York Society Library exhibition “The President’s Wife and the Librarian” a kind of visual version of 84, Charing Cross Road. What a pleasant thought!

* Though two of the ladies also read Paper Towns and really liked it, so that certainly adds to my interest in reading it!

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