84 Charing Cross Road

84 Charing Cross Rd

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Synopsis: Helene Hanff is a struggling writer living in the US. In looking to satisfy her appetite for used books, she stumbles upon a small bookstore in London and writes a letter asking about their inventory. What begins as a casual correspondence in the search for obscure books soon turns into a friendship between Helene and the employees at 84 Charing Cross.

Thoughts: On Thursday morning, I mailed off my UK visa application!!! In the spirit of my upcoming move, I opted to read 84 Charing Cross Road. I didn’t know much about the book, other than that it was about a UK bookstore, but was excited to read it after seeing some very enthusiastic reviews. And as much as I enjoyed being momentarily submerged in British book life, I was overall a bit disappointed with the book.

I will give credit to Hanff for compiling a set of letters (all actual letters sent between her an the bookstore) that led to a very cute tale. I think the thing that got me with this one is that I really didn’t like Hanff’s writing. She exuded an air of smugness combined with excess sarcasm and I just couldn’t stand any of her letters (or really her for that matter). Having said that, I thought the notes included from the Londoners (BAHH CAN’T WAIT!) were just lovely. But how they put up with Ms. Hanff, I’ll never know…

Overall Grade: C+

Up Next: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

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