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84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff


‘Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialise in out of print books. The phrase ‘antiquarian booksellers’ scares me somewhat as I equate ‘antique’ with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes & Noble grimy, marked up schoolboy copies’.

So begins the delightfully reticent love affair between Miss Helena Hanff of New York and Messrs Mark & Co, sellers of rare and secondhand books at 84 Charing Cross Road, London. For twenty years this outspoken New York writer and Frank Doel, a rather more restrained London bookseller, carry on an increasingly touching correspondence to the point where, in early December 1949, Helene is suddenly worried that the six-pound ham she’s sent off to augment British rations will arrive at a kosher office. Soon they are sharing more personal news about Frank’s family and Hanff’s career.

This charming true story, first published in 1970, brings together twenty years of correspondence between Helene Hanff and Frank Doel. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship, captured so acutely in these letters, is one that will grab your heart and not let go. 

Helene Hanff (1916-1997) was an American writer. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she is best known as the author of the book 84 Charing Cross Road, which became the basis for a play, teleplay and film of the same name. Her career, which saw her move from writing unproduced plays to helping create some of the earliest television dramas to becoming a kind of professional New Yorker, goes far beyond the charm of that one book. She called her 1961 memoir Underfoot in Show Business, and it chronicled the struggle of an ambitious young playwright to make it in the world of New York theatre in the 1940s and 1950s. She wrote letters all her life as well as being the author of many books for children.

240 pages
20 x 1.6 x 12.8 cm

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