I HAVE to thank Anupama once more for introducing me to this wonderful book – 84 Charing Cross Road. Without her, I wouldn’t have come to know of this gem of a book at all!! And that would have been really sad, because I LOVED it and couldn’t put it down till I was done.
It is a beautiful, beautiful book that touched many a chord in my heart.
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is basically a collection of letters exchanged by Helene, a struggling writer at the time, and the various people associated with a second-hand bookstore called Marks & Co. Helene begins corresponding with Frank Doel, a staff member of Marks & Co. , for sending her a few books, and gradually, their friendship grows. She comes into contact with the other staff of the store and begins writing to them. A number of beautiful relationships are formed – all based on true friendship, love for books and kindness.
They exchange Christmas presents and food stuffs, and of course, recommendations for books. The people at Marks & Co. form a bond with Helene, and keep inviting her year after year to visit them. The letters flow back and forth for more than 15 years, but something or the other keeps happening and Helene never visits Marks & Co. The book ends with a letter from Frank Doel’s daughter, giving permission to Helene to print some of their letters in the form of a book. And that’s how the book called 84 Charing Cross Road came about.
I never knew I could enjoy a non-fiction book THIS much, but this book is just different. Helene’s love for books and reading touched me to the core, and I was left smiling as I finished reading one letter after another. The book for sure is delightful from start till end. Her passion, kindness and humour made me fall in love with Helene. The way she reads is the way I would love to read too, referring book after book and teaching oneself all about literature. I ADORED the picture that the book painted in my mind of Marks & Co. – one of a roomy bookstore with high ceilings, packed with wood shelves, stacked with endless old books, the smell of those books teasing the senses of visitors as they entered. My, wouldn’t I have LOVED to visit this store!!!
The edition of the book that I had also included a second part – The Duchess of Bloomsbury – the part where Helene actually flies down from the USA to London, the place of her beloved Marks & Co. Finally, after years, she gets a chance to feel the place and meet Frank’s wife. This part is actually a diary that Helene keeps for her trip to London. Helene is now quite a bit known for her book 84 Charing Cross Road, and a lot of wonderful people want to meet her and wine and dine with her. Helene gives the title The Duchess Of Bloomsbury to her diary, because that’s what she feels like while she’s in London, with all the pampering that the people give her!
I can go on and on about this book and never stop; I loved it so much, as I am sure every book lover will do, as will all those who like to read heart-warming stories. I would have loved to visit Helene one day and listen to her talk about books and tell her about India. This book has found a place on my list of all-time favourites, and I am sure I’ll revel in memories of it for quite some time to come. This book reminded me of the good old days of writing letters, when I used to wait endlessly for the postman to bring me letters from my loved ones, and then, when they finally arrived, the way I used to take in the feel of each and every written word and every feeling that had spilled out from the writer’s heart on the papers. 84 Charing Cross Road re-introduced me to the magic of letters, and I am now HIGHLY inspired to begin writing letters again.
Do check out this book and enjoy all that it has to offer. 🙂
I was very happy to know that this book has been made into a movie by the same name. I would LOVE to check it out sometime!!
My rating: 5 stars!!!