Helene Hanff is without a doubt one of my favorite writers. Her charmingly simple book “84 Charing Cross Road” was turned into an award-winning movie, which I’ve seen dozens of times, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. The book is a collection of letters. It is the story of Helene and her 20 year correspondence with Frank Doel, the buyer at an English bookshop, Marks & Co., located at 84 Charing Cross Road, London. She bought rare and out-of-print books from them until they closed in the early 1970s, not long after Frank died. Shortly after that, her book was written and published, and she finally got her chance to go to London.
For a while last year, I was on a kick of buying up other books by Helene. I already had “84 Charing Cross Road” and “The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street”, the account of her first trip to England after “84” was published. Since then I have purchased “Letter From New York”, “Apple of My Eye”, and “Q’s Legacy”. There are still a few more to buy, but I am prolonging the wait because once I have them all, it will be so disappointing to know that’s all there is.
What is it that I love about Helene Hanff? I love her sense of humor, her pithy portraits of the people she knows, and her “take it all in stride” attitude to life. Helene would have been 97 years old this April 15th.
Happy Birthday Helene!