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Helene Hanff could be known as a one hit wonder of the literary world, that is unless you know better. Most people know her book (that was turned into a play, and then a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft), 84, Charing Cross Road. And they should know her for this – it’s a fantastic piece. It’s in those pages where most people will start with Helene’s work; also the place where they will start to fall in love with her work. However, don’t stop there, she offered more wonderful reads in her witty, intelligent, signature voice.
Each book is a quick read, and most are quite short, so she doesn’t even require that much of a time commitment. You’ll come to be sad about this eventually, when you realize you’ve sped through her library of work and there are no more to come. The great thing? Her books are fantastic to read over and over again! She is one of my favorite authors, and I regret that I didn’t come to know her work before she passed away, as I would have written her a letter and eagerly awaited a return (she was well known for personally answering letters from her readers). These books, instead, will be the letters that she wrote to me and to other book lovers and book learners all around the world.
Start With 84, Charing Cross Road
In her most popular work, Hanff (a New York City based freelance writer) shares with the readers a series of letters that she exchanged with a London bookseller, Frank Doel as they became friends, exchanged ideas, and wrote about their love of books. These letters make us privy to the decades long epistolary friendship between two people so bonded through their love of books and their letters to each other that you will wish for a time where Internet didn’t exist just so you could buy books in this wonderfully enchanting way as well.
Continue with The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
What is thought of as the sequel to 84, Charing Cross Road, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street tells us what happens after the pages close on the letters between Helene Hanff and Frank Doel. Readers of 84, Charing Cross Road will be happy to have this piece as they will be left with an open space in their hearts after finishing the first book so quickly. Also non-fiction (Helene detested fiction), this will answer questions and give more details that weren’t included in the letters that Frank and Helene exchanged. It also will take us a step further to see what happens when the moment readers have been waiting for, since the beginning of 84, happens.
Finish (well don’t finish; keep reading after – see suggestions below) with Q’s Legacy
Anyone who reads 84, Charing Cross Road without a list of books to read by the end isn’t really a book lover. And anyone not curious about this Q whom Hanff refers to time and again, just wasn’t reading properly. Lucky for the readers, Hanff dedicates an entire book to Q (aka Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch) in Q’s Legacy, so we can delve deeper into who he was and what he taught this brilliant autodidact. Part travel memoir, this book also wraps up some of the themes and questions readers might be left with after reading 84, Charing Cross Road.
Don’t Stop There
Don’t forget to pick up copies of Letters to New York and Underfoot in Show Business for more Hanff goodness!
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