This year I’m participating in a book club organized by the public library of my hometown. We started in October and we meet every Tuesday: one meeting to discuss a certain book and the next week’s meeting is for watching a film, sometimes related to the book we have read before.
Well, this week we read and discussed 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff; a book I had already read years ago, but that I had no problem in re-reading, since is a charming story told through the letters sent by its characters.
Helene Hanff, a young and enthusiastic script writer, comes in contact in 1949 with the bookshop Marks & Co., in London, to request some titles she can’t find in good conditions in the bookshops of the city where she lives, New York. This is the beginning of a 20-year correspondence that you will never forget.
Helene’s letters are remarkable for their spontaneity, while Frank’s, the bookshop manager, are all British politeness. But despite their different personalities, they establish a lasting friendship which, little by little, is going to include all the book shop assistants and their families. Helene’s career as a writer is not very successful: she lives in an apartment without heating and most of the basic furniture – her books are stacked in boxes which once were for oranges – but food was rationed in Britain for several years after WWII, and she preferred sending them some basic food and keep on living in poverty than let her new friends be in need. You will get moved by Helene’s generosity.
And, of course, they talk about books. Helene’s requests are quite specific and I don’t know the majority of the books she purchased, but we get to know her strange habits when reading, because she only reads essays and poetry; or her thoughts about owning so many books, which are quite interesting. This is a book every book lover should read, seriously.
If only the story had a happy ending!
Finally, I want to talk to you about coincidences: I spent 5 days in London at the beginning of December and I went to Charing Cross to take a photograph of the plaque, which is all that is left from Marks and Co. nowadays, apart from this book. When I came back home, the book club was about to read it 😉
Ah, how I adore this book! And I didn’t know you’d managed to get a picture of the plaque 😀 To anyone else deciding whether or not to read this, I second Isi’s recommendation. If you love books, and enjoy sharing your passion for them with other avid readers, then this really is something to warm your heart. Sheer joy.
I took the picture the previous day we met each other 🙂
It has been a re-reading, but I think I will never fed up with this book, no matter how many times I read it!
Thank you for commenting, Leander!
Ciska (@_Ciska_) said:
I still have this book on my want to read list!!
You have to read it! It’s very short; you can finish it in one afternoon 😉 You will love it!
Shannon @ River City Reading said:
Another coincidence: I just heard about this book for the first time this morning when Michael from the Books on the Nightstand podcast listed it as one of the best books he read this year. Great to hear another wonderful recommendation (in the same day)!
Gosh, so you have no choice but to read it 😉
Every book lover loves this book, this is the general opinion, you’ll see!
I love this book. I’ve read it two years ago after a friend of mine recommended it when we were speaking about the nice and forgotten habit of writing letters, and I’ve drank all the words of this book and enjoy each letter and the evolution in the friendship between the author and all the employees in the book shop.
I’m looking forward to reread it again but this time in English. I’m sure, I’m going to discover new and interesting things in this second read.
Mariuca, that’s what I thought when I saw it was going to be our next reading for the book club: I wanted to try it in English, but It couldn’t happen because there wasn’t any copy in the library.
But anyway, this is a book to re-read, as you have said, and enjoy it again and again. Letters shouldn’t have been replaced by emails; writing on a piece of paper was a rewarding habit 😉
RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book said:
Good! I think I need to join in with my library to see if they have a book club. Are there people of all ages who participate?
Yes, there are people of all ages, but we are mainly women (18 women, 2 men) 😀
In my library there are 4 book clubs in different days and hours, so I’m sure you will find some in your library too! Good luck!
RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book said:
Oh that’s awesome! When I get back to Florida, I’ll look into it.
I really enjoy epistolary novels, although I hate sad endings so I don’t know that I’ll pick this one up. My hometown has a book club but if I went, I would be the youngest by several decades, so I do most of my book discussions online 🙂
hehehe in our book club there are also a majority of old women, but I find it interesting 😀
Regarding the book, don’t be afraid of the sad ending, because it’s a great book, and the plus is that it is a true story.
Andi (@estellasrevenge) said:
I absolutely adored this book and the film adaptation. Thanks for including the pic of the plaque!
It’s a great book!
Now I’m looking forward to watching the film!
I love this book – I really must do so soon. I also love the idea of your library book group – the only book group I ever attended (stuck to it for about 6 months) was not a great success.
I’m sorry to hear that about your book club 😦
But I’m sure you can find another one in your library, or with friends… I enjoy it very much!
The book is lovely, indeed!
Fleur in her World said:
What a lovely coincidence. This is one of those most special books that I could happily read over and over again.
I agree this is a book you can read a lot of times.
Hope to read it in English some day too!
This is a personal favorite of mine. I haven’t seen the film adaptation, I’ll have to try and watch it soon.
I’m glad we agree, but if we think about it, it is not difficult to agree about this book! 😀
you always have such nice pictures en your posts; and this time you went to London just to take one 😀 hard working girl 😉
I loved this book, and still have to see the movie.
hehehe see? I went to London just to take the picture, and but a lot of books!! 😉
Leah @ Books Speak Volumes said:
I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, and your review makes me want to bump it up my list! It sounds so lovely 🙂
It IS lovely, Leah. Read it! 😀
This is a reminder that I need to go and sign up to become a member of my library! This book sounds interesting!
You are not a member of any library, Mel?? We can’t be friends 😛
Seriuosly, I read a lot of books from the library, and I enjoy every minute I spend there.
Hope you read the book too!
I am a member, but I haven’t been there in years. I think I can just go pop in and see what they have 🙂
Ahhh what a relief you have said you are already a member 😉
You should take a look and tell us what is like!
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