Helene Hanff: 84, Charing Cross Road
My faith in humanity restored. This book embodies the dream of every passionate reader who finds comfort in the dusty shelves of libraries, the smell of old manuscripts, and at the risk of sounding cliche, the guilty pleasure of correspondences. Helene Hanff, an American woman who has sworn her eternal love to books, seems to have promised herself only to buy books that she has read and fallen in love with. Unfortunately, she does not always finds what she seeks at the libraries around the corner. Upon seeing an ad in a newspaper about a small library in London, Marks & Co., she immediately sends a letter to the owners inquiring about some of her favorite works. Thus begins an exchange of letters with the shop’s staff, that would last 20 years, leading to a friendship beyond the Atlantic.
The book cannot be considered as literature, for it is a mere collection of letters, but it does highlight Hanff’s agile style, her witty sense of humor, and her profound and humane interest in people she has never seen in her life, but to whom she has developed feelings of compassion. This is the kind of book that just leaves you feeling fuzzy inside. Two thumbs up.