This is the first book I've finished this year since Jasper Fforde's "Lost in a Good Book" in February. My concentration and free time have been non-existent, which didn't help with my university-ingrained need to close read every. single. full. stop. in. a. book. I think it is very telling that with all the good books I've picked up and drifted away from since February, this is the one I put my foot down about finishing. For, this isn't just a good book - it's a great book.
The subject matter (the twenty-year correspondence between Helene Hanff, struggling NY scriptwriter and Frank Doel, poised London bookseller) is as brittle as it is beautiful, so I won't spoil the sparse human events that pepper this tale of literary friendship. Make sure you avoid all blurbs and introductions - which, assuming we are all more informed than we actually are, don't think twice about telling us how the story ends. Just read the thing.
I defy you not to have a lump firmly lodged in your throat when you reach the end. I know I did, even though I'd been preparing myself for it from page 1. This isn't a book which will have you in fits of laughter, or bawling your way through wads of Kleenex; it is the kind of book that has you constantly see-sawing between subtle grinning and eye-brimming.
I am not one to bandy the word "delightful" around the place (so few things nowadays are), but I think that's possibly the only word capable of encapsulating this book. I am happy that, on a whim, I purchased this in the beautiful textile hardcover Virago edition - I know I'll treasure this slim volume forever. I have found kindred spirits in Helene and Frank, ones that I'm loath to let go. The book, while giving me so much, also took a sizeable chunk out of me - having finished it mere moments ago and rushed to type up my thoughts and impressions, I'm simultaneously euphoric and depressed. I suppose I'll just have to read it again to find that chunk once more.