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A WARM AND UNPRETENTIOUS LITTLE BOOK,
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This review is from: 84 Charing Cross Road (Paperback)
I saw the film 84 Charing Cross Road some years ago with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins in the leading roles as the bibliophile American Helene Hanff and the English bookseller Frank Doel. I remember their brilliant acting and their unsentimental relationship when sending each other letters across the Atlantic - the first writing in a direct and American way when ordering her books; the other answering with typical English reserve and politeness. However, in spite of their difference of form it was obvious to me that they nourished a deep sympathy and respect for each other.
It is interesting to see how close the film follows the first part of the book, the second part is about Helene coming to England and how she is treated by friends and admirers when her book is going to be published. This part is not incorporated in the film and I, for my part, read it almost as an afterthought of what I see as the main part; the correspondence between Helene and Frank. Their relationship lasted for twenty years; from 1949, when Helene saw an ad in Saturday Review of Literature saying that Frank's shop was a specialist in out-of-print books, till he died of a ruptured appendix in 1969. Through the letters we get more than a glimpse of English post-war austerity juxtaposed to American affluence - giving Helene an opportunity to show her empathy by sending food to Frank and the staff at the bookshop - food they never saw or was only obtainable on the black market at the time.
All in all, this is a lovely story and a homage to English culture and literature from an anglophile who admire the "Englishness" of the country. And since the setting is English post-war gloom we meet people who are less blasé and more innocent than people of today in their pursuit of the good life. And that is perhaps the main reason for the book's appeal...