Sunday, February 14, 2016

84, Charing Cross Road

by Helene Hanff

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • These are real letters, sent back and forth between an American woman and the employees of a British bookshop during the post-WWII period.
  • For book lovers especially, this is so sweet and cozy. It's filled with references to awesome books, and a proper appreciation for their covers and binding.
  • And it's just a really sweet story, although a little bittersweet as well.

And Why You Might Not:
  • I can't really think of any reason, especially since it's so short that it'll hardly take any of your time. I guess if you're too young to enjoy a story where nothing really happens?

Thoughts: "Short and sweet" is the perfect description for this book. I just love reading books about people who love books, especially beautiful books. Kindred spirits, even if they're completely different than me in every other way. And speaking of completely different, the American vs. British differences are hilariously demonstrated here. I suppose those stereotypes really came about for a reason. Helene Hanff is just so ... energetic, sometimes obnoxious, careless, and American. And Frank Doel, the bookshop employee who responds to her, is proper and deferring and very slow to lose the formality. Their punctuation alone is a wonderful study in contrasts.

This is definitely worth the hour or so it takes to read.

Grade: 4 stars

If You Like This, You Might Also Like: I haven't done very well at this new recommendation section so far, sigh. The problem is that I've been reading a few more books that are outside my usual fare recently. And this is totally outside it. I can't really think of anything that's much like it at all. Here's the best I've got:
--The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis: because you get some of that cozy-but-suffering-Britishers-in-wartime feel? Even though 84, Charing Cross Road took place after the war... but they were still having food shortages and stuff, so I'm counting it.
--Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones: because the girl falls in love with books and her friend sends her them in the mail. Yeah, I'm really stretching here, I know... But what else can I put? Daddy-Long-Legs because it's epistolary? Emily of New Moon because there's an eccentric female writer? The "Hetalia" anime because it has British/American contrasts?
I wasn't lying when I said it was outside my usual fare. Probably some day I'll read something that IS more like this and come back and edit, but for now, you'll have to research on your own.


Aquinas' Goose said...

The Archivist by Martha Cooley. It's about an archivist who doesn't exactly stumble upon T. S. Eliot's personal letters and his decision about what to do with them. This was published in '98 / '99 and I read it in the early 2000s, so what's remained with me is the fact that it's about a very specialized librarian (archivists are cool) and how history and literature flow into the present "reality."

I put it up because it deals with bibliophiles and T.S. Eliot--who, although he was American, is sometimes considered a British author.

RED said...

Huh, I'll look into that, thanks. Archivists are cool indeed, and I really like T.S. Eliot.