rating : DDG (drop dead gorgeous)
During the Christmas break I started reading Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, one of my Christmas books. It reminded me so much of 84 Charring Cross Road I abandoned Guernsey to revisit 84, a charming book which should be required reading for all book lovers. An epistolary novel gathering the correspondence (which did actually take place so It’s not really a novel I guess) between Helene Hanff (in New York) and Marks & co - 'antiquarian book-sellers' - (in London) just after WWII. The lovely pithy little letters make it a quick read.
The juxtaposition of Helen, a fiery New Yorker who writes just the way you’d imagine she speaks, and the very proper English gentleman, Frank Dole, is glorious and their discussion of literature (amongst other things) makes this book a treasure.
Helen, as an anglophile, was a girl after my own heart and her desire to see, taste and feel all things English was something I could relate to in such a passionate way the first time I read this:
Please write and tell me about London, I live for the day when I step off the boat-train and feel its dirty sidewalks under my feet. I want to walk up Berkeley Square and down Wimpole Street and stand in St. Paul's where John Donne preached and sit on the step Elizabeth sat on when she refused to enter the Tower, and like that. A newspaper man I know, who was stationed in London during the war, says tourists go to England with preconceived notions, so they always find exactly what they go looking for. I told him I'd go looking for the England of English literature, and he said:
"Then it's there."
It took us about the same length of time to achieve the dream of walking those London streets – 20 years. Her visit is captured in diary form in The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, often included now in one volume with 84 Charring Cross Road.
I find The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street disappointing and I realise it’s because it doesn’t contain Frank’s voice.