Wednesday, September 9, 2009
84 Charing Cross Road
Blogger doesn't seem to want to upload photos today so I'll just carry on and hope things work themselves out. Let's just start by saying "Where have I been?". Near the top of my list of favourite things are books and London and this book is about both. I'm sure that just about everyone knows this is the story of a woman, Helene Hanff, sending letters regarding her book requests from New York to a bookshop in London. But it's so much more than that isn't it. The parcels of meat and eggs that Helene sends to the shop when rationing is still in place after WWII makes it feel like Christmas over and over again. Then there's the times when Helene encloses paper money in her letters to pay for books, how different from the way we order our books today. Helene is rather forward in her comments but as I found out later, Frank Doel, quite enjoyed her sense of humour. WHAT KIND OF A PEPYS' DIARY DO YOU CALL THIS? this is not a pepys' diary, this is some busybody editor's miserable collection of EXERPTS from pepys' diary may he rot. I could just spit. where is jan. 12, 1668, where his wife chased him out of bed and round the bedroom with a red-hot poker? As staff and their family members begin their own correspondence with Helene, the invites to visit are frequent. I kept thinking "what are you waiting for you silly woman!". But one day has a habit of leading into the next and a trip to London was always "perhaps next year". The letters end abruptly and I couldn't believe it, I could have happily read volumes of this stuff. So imagine my surprise when I turn the next page and the sequel to this story is included in my book! The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street begins in June 1971 when Helene finally crosses the pond to conduct interviews and book signings for 84 Charing Cross Road. The absolute cherry on the cake for me is that she stays in a hotel in Bloomsbury. The descriptions of walking around The British Museum, Bedford Square and Russell Square are sheer literary travel candy for me. Although, can you imagine Lamb's Conduit Street without Persephone? I do find myself cringing a bit when Ms Hanff refers to herself as a celebrity and writes about people staring at her but her descriptions of various locations makes up for all that. I'm not quite finished the book yet so I'm off to put on the kettle, I'll be reading in between loads of laundry and other domestic duties this morning. I've come to this book about twenty years later than I should have but better late than never.