84, Charing Cross Road (1970) by Helene Hanff

Classics Challenge: Classic by a woman author.

19 in 2021 Reading Challenge. A book of letters. (I’m looking forward to the podcast discussion of the book!

Helene Hanff wrote for the stage and television, but claimed fame for her writing about her career. She described her plays as having “plotless charm,” an apt description of 84, Charing Cross Road.

Over the span of many years, Helene Hanff corresponded with her London bookseller, slowly building a friendship with her primary correspondent, his family, and various and sundry other people connected to Marks & Co. She published the letters in 1970 to commemorate their friendship.

I found this book delightful, but as I discussed it with a friend, I realized that might have been because I went in with properly calibrated expectations. I knew it was a real set of letters, so I didn’t expect a plot or high drama. I also knew that the effusive, emotional reviews were unlikely to reflect my own experience. I opened the book wanting a pleasant diversion, and that’s exactly what I had for the two hours I read it (straight through).

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