84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff

I own TGND a big thanks for pushing me to read these 🙂 I had heard about them , but never got around to picking them up. TGND gave me that push to go and reserve them, and was I glad!

84 Charing Cross Road is the collection of correspondence between Helene Hanff, an struggling writer with a taste for antiquarian books, and Frank Doel, a buyer for Marks and Cross, booksellers in London. Her initial query for a rare book turned into a series of correspondence that spanned 20 years.

The correspondence evolved into a wonderful friendship between Helene and Doel and other staff members as well. During the shortages in England during the Second World War, Helene’s thoughtful food parcels and Christmas presents lifted everybody’s spirits. The relationship between them grew with the correspondence covering all sorts of topics ranging from concern for staff members to recipes. Even other staff and Doel’s wife started to write to her. The letters are absolutely lovely to read.

The twenty year correspondence came to an end when Frank Doel passed away in 1968. Helene did not make it in time to meet her old friend, having put away coming to England to meet other urgent expenses in her life.

A wonderfully charming book. Helene’s wit, her feisty spirit and her generosity shines through. The struggling author who manages to forge a wonderful enduring friendship with the booksellers across the Atlantic is sweet, charming and leaves you feeling very good about the world. A classic, which I am sure to read again and again.

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff

My copy had the sequel to 84 Charing Cross Road as well – double bonanza!

After years of yearning to visit England, Helene finally makes the trip to London in 1971 after the success of 84, Charing Cross Road. Ironically, it is after the massive success of 84, Charing Cross Road, that she manages to travel to London, which she had been dying to visit. Too late to meet Frank Doel, she does meet his wife and daughter as well as a host of people whose life had been touched by her.

She also goes to Oxford, Eton, Stratford Upon Avon, places she always wanted to visit. Her delight and excitement comes through in her memoir. At one point some one asked if she were planning to buy something to take back, and she retorted that, buying something would mean a few days less in England, which was absolutely not an option for her.

Recounting her time in England, her wonderful sense of humour and her genuine happiness at being there, her passion for British history as well as the love and affection with which everybody welcomed her, was so wonderful to read.

A lovely, heart-warming read! I would have loved for it to go on and on!