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84, Charing Cross Road [Hardcover]

5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than reading someone's diary Nov. 28 2013
By bernie TOP 50 REVIEWER
Like many people, I saw a movie first. Naturally, due to media constraints, you expect certain amount of the book to be homogenized. Therefore, I wanted to read what was missing. To my amazement very little was missing or modified. I do not normally read this sort of book. Therefore, I was surprised at finding myself wanting more when it finished.

In addition, until I read the book I did not realize that Charing Cross Road was a real place. The whole book is based on a collection of correspondence between Helene Hanff, an avid book reader, and Frank Doel an agent for British bookseller.

My wife has taken this one-step further and is collecting all the books that were mentioned in the correspondence. Some of these books appear to have been reprinted due to this publication.

If you can find it there is a book called "The Library of Helene Hanff."
I wonder what became of all the other people described in the correspondents after the book.

84 Charing Cross Road
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully evocative book. A must for nostalgia tragics July 18 2008
By Robert Muirhead - Published on Amazon.com
"84 Charing Cross Road" is a collection of letters over a 20-year period between Helene Hanff, who lived in New York, and Frank Doel (and others) of Marks & Co, a small bookseller in London, hence the title of the book.

The second part of the volume "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street" describes Hanff's first visit to London to meet many of the people she got to know through her letters, and to see many of the places made famous by English literature..

Hanff is an acute observer of people and places, and she has a gift for capturing them in a few pithy words. She also has a dry sense of humour.

Today, we buy our books online from Amazon and the like, or we drink coffee and browse in the commercial friendliness of a real bookshop. It's all very efficient, and we get inexpensive books, but it has no soul. "84 Charing Cross Road" is about a very different era, a time when a book-lover like Helene Hanff would write to her favourite bookseller, who would in turn write personally back to her about the books she wanted and his efforts to find them for her.

When I lived in London twenty years ago, I frequently visited the wonderful bookshops that still existed along Charing Cross Road and the adjacent area. Labyrinths of shelves, piled to the ceiling. Even then they existed in a time warp, fending off the encroachments of Borders, Amazon and a host of other efficient booksellers. Maybe they are slowly disappearing now, just as 84 Charing Cross Road did when the owners died.

Reading this book was a bitter-sweet experience for me. I look back on an idealised time through the rosiest of rose-tinted glasses and I mourn for the vanished days so evocatively described in this volume. Times when a small commercial transaction like buying books meant more than an impersonal exchange of printer matter for a credit card slip, when people had time to talk to each other as well.

But perhaps it was never really so. We idealise the past, and books like this make very dangerous reading for lovers of English literature and history, because they encourage us to wallow in nostalgia.

Readers who love books, not only for their contents, but also for their physical appeal and smell, will readily identify with this book. The internet and e-Books have a place as sources of information and enjoyment, but they cannot replace the tactile and sensual presence of real books. A real book, passed down the years, with its marks of time and perhaps inscriptions and notes by vanished readers, will always be a treasure.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely delightful! May 10 2012
By Maria - Published on Amazon.com
Wonderful collection of real letters between an American book collector and an English used bookseller. Quick, funny read. They only sad part is that if you go to 84 Charing Cross Road in London, there is a Pizza Hut there now. But there are several used booksellers nearby to give you the flavor of what might have been there.
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting Look at the 1950s and 1960s Aug. 31 2014
By L. B. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
I am going to sound ignorant when I say that I didn't know Barnes and Noble existed in 1949, when Helene Hanff's letters begin. And the answer is: it began as a printing business in 1873 and opened as a bookstore in 1917.

Who knew?

Ms. Hanff was a modest NYC writer who loved old books. She had a list and wanted to purchase them if a book could be obtained for $5 or less. Think about it, 1949 and $5; that is a lot of money back then. She wrote to Marks and Co. from across the sea and asked for their help with the matter. Remember, this is decades before the Internet existed and her resources were very limited.

'FPD' (No, not PDF as I wanted to type!) responded. He referred to her as 'Madam'. He found some things she wanted, mailed them from London to her address in the States and INCLUDES AN INVOICE! She mails him CASH with an amusing quip about money exchanges and a delightful reference to the Americanized meaning of 'Madam'.

He mailed her more from her list. She sent him cash. And a Christmas ham. Eventually it appeared as though the entire staff starts up a correspondence that covered twenty years. Talk about 'Pen-Pal 101'!

At 97 pages, this is a amazingly fast read and an interesting journey to the past. It contained some snarky humor, mid-twentieth century style. Literally (no pun intended!), the letters are a goldmine. They are witty, funny and a joy to read. Ms. Hanff is now long dead but I am so happy she took the time to share her letters with all of us.
4.0 out of 5 stars Book to Movie Nov. 15 2013
By an older gardener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Enjoyable book especially if you like people with depth. There is a real charmer in this one. My fellow reader was also impressed. will look for more of her books.
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful! Sept. 2 2013
By mcj251 - Published on Amazon.com
This is a book for book lovers. For anyone who likes to talk about books or read about other people talking about books - this is for you. The letters are charming and sometimes funny and the characters personalities really shine through. It is a very quick read but I think it is the type of book one could go back to and reread over the years.
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