July 16, 2012
84, Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff
After reading this beautiful, touching book of correspondence, I almost checked our savings to see if it can withstand a pleasure trip to London. To 84, Charing Cross Road, specifically. Well, almost, but not quite.
I also entertained the idea of writing a letter to whoever may still receive it at that address – the old address of a secondhand book shop called Marks & Co., back in the 1950s-1960s. Another whimsical thought, I concede, because after several decades, of course the place would have undergone a lot of changes – but I couldn't help it.
Not after reading Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road.
The book is a collection of exchanged missives between the author, Hanff, and a British seller of secondhand books. Their correspondence spanned a period of 20 years, and their mutual love for books leapt out at me from their letters. It is through this exchange of airmails and book posts that their friendship blossomed.
A bookish friend, who owns the copy I read by the way, claims to have shed tears after reading it; it was that touching. It completely pinched my heart, too – I was so utterly moved by the beauty of the relationship shared by two strangers who had something in common: books. The fact that they were continents apart did not deter this passion, and it makes me feel wistful that they shared such a friendship.
It's a short read, but it packs a wallop. I recommend it to everyone who can appreciate a heartwarming story, and especially those who can understand how people can connect through a shared passion.