Play Book Tag discussion

July 2016: Biography Memoir > 84, Charing Cross Road (Helene Hanff) - 5 stars

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message 1: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2636 comments For twenty years between 1949 and 1968, Helene Hanff, bibliophile and often struggling New York writer, corresponded with Frank Doel at Marks & Co, an antiquarian booksellers in London. These two very different people, from very different societies (occasionally divided by their common language!) managed to understand one another perfectly thanks to their shared love of books and a shared (though differently expressed) sense of humour. They developed a close - though only ever epistolary - friendship. Through Frank, Helene also got to know his wife Nora, and his colleagues (many of whom also feature).

Helene's book tells their story, entirely through the letters they wrote to one another. Given Helene's interest in memoirs as mirrors onto times past, it's not surprising that many of the letters act as little windows onto the times when they were written - from rationing in post-war Britain (generous Helene sent the staff much-appreciated food parcels), to the King's death and the crowning of Queen Elizabeth, to the advent of the Beatles and the screaming of their fans.

This is a treasure of a book! I laughed, I sniffled, I scouted around looking up references ... and I looked with a pang at my own crowded bookshelves full of modern (though loved), cardboard-bound fare. I will dream tonight of soft leather bookcovers, embossed writing, and gold-edged pages.

The audiobook is wonderful. Juliet Stevenson and John Nettles narrate the letters pitch-perfectly (particularly Stevenson, who has a lot of different characters to read).

Many, many thanks to my PBT colleagues who recommended this to fit our "biography" tag this month.

message 2: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6273 comments Kate wrote: "Many, many thanks to my PBT colleagues who recommended this to fit our "biography" tag this month. ..."

Absolutely ... just the "push" I needed to finally get to this book, which I've been meaning to read since the late 1970s!

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