I would say that this book wouldn't make much sense to those who hadn't read 84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, but is a charming delight for those who have. This somewhat choppy collection of pieces fills in a lot of the gaps between those other books.
This is a charming memoir from the author of 84, Charing Cross Road, which you should read before and perhaps instead of this book. Hanff's voice is wonderful and I gave 84, a book of her letters, 5 stars. This one is also very good, but has the feel of watching someone else's vacation slides. She's still an excellent narrator, but when she writes about specific places and people in London she starts to lose me. The story of how she went about educating herself with books from the library when she couldn't afford college is inspiring and humbling.
"a delightful account of a lifelong love affair with books"
Helene Hanff's background story for her wonderful book (now a movie) 84, Charing Cross Road.
These are pretty much Helene Hanff's memoirs. She tells about how she struggled to make a career as a writer for years and years until she finally found a hit with 84, Charing Cross Road. (This struggle and her autodidacticism reminded me very much of Jack London's Martin Eden.) She continues to tell about how she came to write The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (which itself is a book about her book 84, Charing Cross Road) and then how 84, Charing Cross Road was turned into a film and then a play. Over all, this was amusing, but Ms. Hanff comes off as being unreasonable and more than a bit batty--someone with whom, had we been contemporaries, I probably wouldn't have hit it off (not that I'm not unreasonable and a bit batty myself). I enjoyed this much more than 84, Charing Cross Road but not as much as The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.
A fantastic companion to "84, Charing Cross Road." It shows more of Helene Hanff's memorable personality and makes you want to go out and read the classics.
I have loved all of Helene Hanff's books,and this is no exception. It's all familiar territory, with the bulk of the book concerning Helene's visit to some of Q's old haunts, and other highlights of a trip to England - a different trip from the one described in Duchess of Bloomsbury St.
Hanff's real gift is for friendship, and she draws readers in to her inner circle. You just know you could go and knock on her door and be welcomed in for a martini and a little book talk. You also know exactly what her apartment looks like and what her view is from her windows, exactly how many blocks from Central Park and who are the dogs who frequent her front stoop of an evening.