C=84, Charing Cross Road

In past few days, I had been going through difficult time, and I requested Senior Raccoon group on Facebook, my reading group, to suggest me some feel-good books. This came as reference for that time. The book is very small, and it did not disappoint me.

The book is a letter-conversation between a reader in US, Helene Hanff, who is requesting the second-hand books from a store located in 84, Charing Cross Roads.

Honestly speaking, there is not much about the place covered here as much characters in the book, but it is the place which interested me more in the book. Letter after letter, the place came to life—Marks & Co. on 84, Charing Cross Roads. Helene sends across hams, eggs, and a lot of food stuff which I have no idea about to the people in the bookstore, and slowly with each character, the bookstore appears more clearly.  Helene Hanff  explains her fascination with London as “I live for the day when I step off the boat-train and feel its dirty sidewalks under my feet.” She says she will go “looking for the England of English Literature.” And that is what the book invokes me: a feeling that 84, Charing Cross Road is the “England of English Literature”.

In one of the letters written to author by author’s friend explain the bookshop as “loveliest old shop straight out of Dickens.” This small description is complete in itself. But the letter further describes, “It’s dim inside, you smell the shop before you see it, it’s a lovely smell, I can’t articulate it easily, but it combines must and dust and age, and walls of wood and floors of wood.” Can you imagine anything more peaceful than this shop? It sounds like heaven on earth.

The shop managed to find a lot of books for Helene. They are all listed out in the letters too and the book also has a bit of the bookish banter. I still do not understand how the book shipped from London to US could have costed less to her, but then I am not well-versed with US economy. It just reminds me of my childhood when I used to spend days and hours in the second-hand bookshops (Only the people there weren’t as nice as they are in these letters).

I have tried to keep this post as spoiler free as possible. I will close this letter from one of the snippets from the book as she urges her friend: “If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much (It here refers to Marks & Co.).”

I think I owe this place something too—for giving me a bookshop, for giving me a smile in VERY difficult time, for reminding me that there are so many more books to read. It is a very short read—97 pages only, and yet, it manages to transport the reader to a world where books are treated with love and respect.   

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