My brother’s English major cohort read 84, Charing Cross Road for their book club last fall, and I was intrigued. I’m always interested in what other book clubs are doing, and I often will read what other people read, because I’m one of those highly social people who is all about talking about books with other people who like books. Cannonball Read is my kind of hangout (although the Extrovert in me would *love* an in-person meet).
But back to 84, Charing Cross Road. Helene Hanff is a freelance writer who is trying to make ends meet in New York. She is looking for a rare but affordable used book and has exhausted all her resources stateside. She sends a casual inquiry to a bookstore in London on Charing Cross Road, and the proper but delightful response from Frank Doel starts a correspondence that spans decades. Hanff requests rare books and becomes more daring with an increase in income. Doel’s responses slowly become less formal and more friendly as he shares more about his wife and children. Hanff, Doel, and the bookstore itself become characters in a winsome and witty tableau about the incredible power of books to bring us together, even if we never meet.
This is a book lover’s book. While I am a friendly person, I sometimes struggle when I am in a new situation without any common touchstones. But often, if I discover that a fellow stranger likes certain books that I do, that ice is so much easier to break. Like Jane Austen. The moment I discover a fellow Austenite, it’s like we speak the same language. Can you imagine what I would do if I met a fellow Barbara Pym fan???