Helene Hanff was an American writer born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although she worked in early TV, wrote plays and magazine articles, in her later career she turned to writing the books that made her famous.
84, Charing Cross Road, one of her most famous, was written in 1970. It’s the true story of Hanff’s 20-year correspondence with Frank Doel, chief book buyer for Marks & Co. old booksellers located at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. Unable to find the obscure classics she wanted in New York City, Hanff noted a Marks & Co. ad in a magazine. She contacted them for help and it fell to Frank Doel to fulfill her requests.
Over the next 20 years her long-distance relationship with Doel grew to include other staff members in the shop. They began exchanging Christmas and birthday gifts, and during WWII when Britain suffered through severe food shortages, Hanff also supplied them with many necessities from the U.S.
Hanff planned to visit them after the war but was not able to do so until after Doel had died in December 1968 from a burst appendix. The bookshop eventually closed, and Hanff finally visited London in 1971 where she saw the still-empty bookshop. Her trip is recorded in her book The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.
84, Charing Cross Road became a best seller and was made into a stage play, a TV play, and finally a movie starring Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins (who was marvelous!), and Judi Dench.
I first read 84, Charing Cross Road in high school. The long-distance relationship between Helene Hanff and Frank Doel was the stuff of magic to me. It spurred me on to enjoy many, many long-distance pen-pals and e-pals adding a depth to my world that left me hankering for travel and meeting people. My best friend in all the world, Kim Coull, is from Australia. Though his lordship and I have yet to be able to afford a trip to her home, Kim has been over to stay with us twice. She is a rare jewel.
I am writing this post because I have been blessed with so many e-pals through Word Press and now another angel named Anna has dropped into my life from England! How she found her way to my blog I don’t know. I’m not sure even if she has one here. But already the emails are flowing between us and I am finding her to be an interesting and stimulating correspondent!
I’ve shared with her my desire to visit the British Isles (which we hope to do in 2017) and if there is ANY way possible, I will try my darndest (is that even a word?) to stop by and meet her. In the meantime I am looking forward to hearing all about her life in England, and I will be regaling (ha, ha) her with some stories of my own. I’m really looking forward to a long friendship!
And I want to say to everyone on here, get to know those folks in your blogging neighborhood whose blogs you follow. You never know when you will stumble on a jewel that will light up your life in a very special way (Fimnora, Plato, Jane, Clare, Michelle, Metalflowermaker, Elizabeth, Badfish, JMD… Oh my gosh! So many wonderful people, so little time to chat!).
And if you’ve never read 84, Charing Cross Road, have a look at it on Amazon. It just might encourage you to reach out to others over the blog waves!