84 Charing Cross Road – London and New York – Helene Hanff

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The ultimate love story about a couple who post letters to each other  – one in America, the other at a bookshop in Charing Cross Road, London.

Story in a nutshell

It all started with a letter….

….a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London.

She receives a reply from the rather serious and matter of fact Frank Doel. Whilst her letters are charming and witty, his less so, but soon the letter writing develops into something a lot more special indeed.

Place and setting

After reading this line in the book – “If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much.” The Booktrail had to go there. It is also a true story and you can feel the ghosts of Helen and Frank as you stand outside the golden plaque which serves as evidence of the literary magic that took place here.

The transatlantic journey of the letters in the novel
The transatlantic journey of the letters in the novel

London – The bookshop where Frank worked was located at 84 Charring Cross Road

New York – where Helen Hanff wrote and sent her letters

A true story

Hanff, in search of  books she had been unable to find in New York noticed an ad in a newspaper and first contacted the shop in 1949. Doel was the one who answered her questions and sent her books.

Over time a lovely friendship developed. Packages, birthday gifts, and food parcels as well as friendship crossed oceans.

Hanff sadly visited England too late as Frank had sadly died. However the empty but still standing shop in the summer of 1971 is recorded in her 1973 book The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.

There is now a plaque on the wall in Charing Cross road at the site where the shop once stood.

londonrem

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