In these days of e-books, and bland books constructed from franchised ideas and formulas, we are presented "84, Charing Cross Road," a story about a relationship begun because of a mutual love of old great books.
Frank Doel owns the English bookstore, and Helene Hanff mails him a request for a book. Correspondence and a relationship begins. Contently and confidently married, Doel responds as an older brother might, and the two grow to cherish each other despite the distance.
As they care for each other, and slowly, their local friends and family become aware, we see how love transcends the sea. Neither character has an agenda, and this left me feeling a little less cynical about the world around me.
Like Nick Bantock's "Griffin and Sabine," it carries a romantic mystery and intrigue. We read the correspondence and imagine.
Like so many of today's e-mail- and chatroom-only friendships, they learn to appreciate each other, though knowing only the other as they choose to describe themselves.
This isn't a story about books or bookstores, despite the honest representation of their demeanor and personality. Any booklover knows the search for a book, and the texture of a bookseller's knowledge and connection with his books.
This is a book about the depth, trust, and love of one unexpected relationship. Book lovers will enjoy the context, and good friends will smile knowingly.
The movie with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft is likewise worth viewing, carrying the letters into a emotional zone of charm and delight.