Book of the Month

March 2000 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

My Review

84 Charing Cross Road

Looking for something to read? How about a real life account of a acquaintance that took place entirely by mail. Of a friendship that crossed the pond and bridged the gap between a young, brash, American writer and a proper, upright, English bookseller. Not a romance or a drama, but I chance to share in a joint love of books. Cover is in reasonable condition and the price is fair.

What is it about this book that appeals? Although this book is not new, and may be known better by some for the film that was made of it, the content probably relates better to today than ten years ago.

With the onset of the internet and the communication advantages it brings, most people now talk to others across the world via email and chat rooms. Countless of us have struck up friendships with people we have never met or even seen, and it is this fact that makes this book so appealing. It is a real life encounter that is interesting and poignant in itself, but it is the relevance to current fashion that brings this book into the present.

Through the letters you much about the style of the book that the author, Helene Hanff likes to read. In this I found we had opposite views. She has a dislike for fiction (although she makes an exception for Austen) and a love for fact - diaries, essays, the classics. I always thought I was the other way round, but since reading this have found myself heading away from the fiction shelf (although I will never renounce my love of fiction), and have even invested in Samuel Pepys' Diary (although I am ashamed to say it is a concise edition).

But possibly the nicest thing about this book is the obvious love for Britain (England in particular) and it's literature that is spread across it's pages. As a Brit myself it brings a warm glow - not because it glorifies the history and past of the old place, but because it reminds you that the very place you live in has inspired some great works of art and writing. My favourite quote from the book has to be:

I told him I'd go looking for the England of English literature, and he said:


Then it's there.'

A Note about the Author.

Helene Hanff was born in 1917. She studied playwriting at the Theatre Guild and has written for American television: The Hallmark Hall of Fame and Ellery Queen. She has written several biographical works, childrens books and articles for magazines. Helen Hanff died of pneumonia in 1997.


84 Charing Cross Road(1976), The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street(1974), Apple Of My Eye, Q's Legacy, Underfoot in Showbusiness.

Suggested Links

Helene Hanff - author, playwright, friend - an excellent site on the author.

Helene Hanff - biography, bibiography and reviews of the author.

84 Charing Cross Road - Pictures from the film.

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