The account of a friendship – almost a love story – conducted through books . . .
We are delighted to let you know that 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is now available as a cloth-bound hardback Plain Foxed Edition. These sturdy little books, bound in duck-egg blue cloth, come in the same neat pocket format as the original SF Editions.
In the drab and traumatized post-war London of 1949, Marks & Co., second-hand and antiquarian booksellers at 84, Charing Cross Road, received an enquiry from a Miss Helene Hanff of New York City. It was not the kind of letter they were accustomed to receiving, and it was one that would make history.
Miss Hanff described herself as ‘a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books’ which she was unable to satisfy as ‘all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or grimy, marked-up school copies’. She enclosed a list of her ‘most pressing problems’, one of which was a Latin Bible. Marks & Co.’s polite but formal reply regretted they were unable to supply the particular volume she described, but enquired if she would like them to send ‘a Latin New Testament, also a Greek New Testament, ordinary modern editions in cloth binding’.
After a while, however, letters between the feisty, eccentric writer and the staff of the bookshop began to encompass much more than books. Gradually the distant ‘FDP’ who first signed Marks & Co.’s letters emerged as ‘Frank Doel’, and eventually simply ‘Love Frank’. Soon the whole office was joining in, slipping in notes about their families, describing life in London, and thanking her for the food parcels she sent from New York.
It was a correspondence that would last for twenty years. When Helene Hanff finally had the idea of making the letters into a book, it became a bestseller. It’s a gloriously heart-warming read, the account of a friendship – almost a love story – conducted through books that captures the essence of a slower, gentler era.
Please read the newsletter for an excerpt from the book, in which we open not with a letter penned by Helene or Frank but with correspondence from Helene’s friend Maxine who was lucky enough to browse the bookshelves of Marks & Co. in person and thereby sets our scene. We do hope you’ll enjoy it.
With best wishes from the SF office staff,
Jennie, Anna, Hattie, Jess & Helen