Forgotten Classics: “84, Charing Cross Road”August 25, 2008 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Forgotten Classics, Memoir, Nonfiction | 4 Comments
84, Charing Cross Road is a window into another world. Composed entirely of letters between Helene Hanff and her overseas bookseller, this book seemed archaic when I first read it but oddly less so now that e-mail is so prevalent. Essentially, Hanff befriends the staff of Marks and Co., her suppliers, going so far as to send them things they can’t get due to post-WWII rationing. Now that we have the Web, it’s hard to say whether a correspondence like this would be more or less likely than it was at the time. It’s easier for people to track down various goods and services without help, but it’s also far easier to strike up informal friendships.
The only thing negative I have to say about this book is that it’s barely over 100 pages. You’d think that in 20 years people could write more often, or longer, or something. That’s a built-in drawback to the epistolary tale, I suppose – Griffin and Sabine and Ella Minnow Pea weren’t very long, either. When you’ve read it all you’ll wish there was more. It’s funny, passionate, charming, and wistful. It was also made into a movie, if you like that sort of thing.