Years ago I watched the movie of 84, Charing Cross Road. I didn't like it. Now I know why! Such a compendium was never, ever meant to be transferred to the screen – I don't care how many TV scripts the author wrote. Theses were letters, between a reserved English gentleman in a bookshop and a penniless girl writing from a New York apartment. Over about twenty years, Helene Hanff and Frank Doel wrote across an ocean as she sought books and he found them. Helene has a noisy sense of humor and a proclivity for uppercase letters when she is PARTICULARLY PEEVED. Additionally, her loving and vivid descriptions of the editions she secured are enough for any bibliophile to sigh, and the idea of an Englishman in a bookshop in England pulling books off shelves and wrapping them up and sending them off to America is something any buyer of old volumes would have to be envious of.
I was surprised by what great blocks of time were blotted out, silent between letters. There were obviously large sections of the correspondence missing, also. Reading the book feels distinctly like sitting in a somewhat noisy cafe and evesdropping on the very interesting conversation happening one or two tables over from you. You miss bits of it, and the bits you hear make you want to go over and barge your way into the conversation, making them start over at the beginning and repeat whatever you missed. Of course, you can't, not in either case – it would be terribly rude.
I picked this book up because my friend Teresa has made mention of it before and expressed her deepest admiration for the little book. On her trip to England last Spring she also stopped by the place where the shop used to be, and sent me a picture of a little plaque commemorating the spot. I am glad to have had the pleasure of reading it. It's very brief, lots of fun, and an absolute delight to either anglo- or bibliophiles, or both.
I read the book in about an hour all told. Amazon has it for quite cheap!