84, Charing Cross Road

cover image 84, Charing Cross Road

by Helene Hanff
Penguin Books, 1990
Paperback, 112 pages

In the mid-20th century Charing Cross Road at Cambridge Circus, London was an enclave of salons and accompanying businesses of the literary world including bookstores. In this quirky little novel one such was Marks & Co. whose chief buyer was a man named Frank Doel. A New York writer, Helene Hanff, responding to an ad began a 20-year exchange of letters with Frank and, from time to time, a few others in the store. Her letters are brash and witty. His are formal and frank. Their sweet and savory correspondence ranges widely across literature and life in general. Their epistolary relationship matures and deepens. Helene takes on a charitable role as war rationing settles on London and she sends food parcels that are received with huge enthusiasm. An enchanting little book!