Robert Frost

The best way out is always through.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

She is a charmer!

In the last year I have read more than I anticipated.  I got Amazon happy that is for sure.  And I have a dear friend that finds a literary gem and likes to matchmake people with books.  If he loves the book, then he passes it on.  So in the same vein I have just met a dear woman, Helene Hanff, through her writing and if you have not met her I would love to introduce her.
When I was quite younger (early teens) I remember first knowing of Helene Hanff.  I got caught up in the movie 84, Charing Cross Road, with the saucy and perfect Anne Bancroft as Helene.  The movie recounts the 20 year correspondence between Ms. Hanff of NYC and a Mr. Doel (played by the spot on Anthony Hopkins) of Marks & Co. Bookseller of London England from 1948 until his untimely death in 1968.  She is in search of hard to find English authors and through her blunt, honest, and witty writing she charms the staid and at first formal Englishman and store clerks and befriends them all.  She loves English literature, England and longs to know London first hand so that once her link to the bookstore is made she too treasures the exchanges of books and growing friendship.  Recalling that movie after our Aug. '09 trip to London (wished I'd remembered it sooner) I got the book (a very short rewarding read) and had to know her more.

It happened that right after I read "84" I read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  It is a fictional story set in the English Island's WWII aftermath and is also told in letters.  I would recommend it too, but it seemed to pale in comparision to the truelife heartfelt friendship that unfolds in "84". 

When I found that I wanted to know more about Ms. Hanff, I discovered that she had more to tell about her love of London post-"84" in her book/diary, "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street".  She recounts her first visit to London to meet pen pal friends face to face, a number of fans of "84", which did well in England, and become intimate with the city that had grown dear to her in literature.  She made me see London again.  Her depth of knowledge of the city's life and the true characters of London that weave its rich history is fascinating.  And you cheer for her when she confesses that at 54, the single woman's hard-working writer's life she had known for so long, without much acclaim, appeared to have a hurrah for her. 

If you like books, romance, travel, and writing (hello bloggers!) get to know Helene and prepare to be delighted.


BonjourRomance said...

Bonjour Jenny,
This is a great post - I love to learn about good books, its hard to find ones that are decent so I usually stick with older authors and historical literature like The Three Muskateers, Jane Eyre, etc Yes I'm a nerd.
I'm off to the bookstore this weekend...

Jenny said...

Bonjour mon amie,

I love, love, love Jane Eyre, too. I know you will enjoy Helene and her books are easy, short reads.

A Tale of Two Cities said...

You've convinced me! What would you recommend first-the movie or the book?


Jenny said...

Well seeing as I saw the movie first I don't have the pure book experience...so, I would say the movie is the easiest entre to hearing her voice and zesty nature. I only wished they had made a movie out of her "Duchess" book as it is chock full of interesting interactions and characters. Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!

Sally Annie Magundy said...

Hi Jenny,
I'm feeling very blabbery today. ;)
Oh! I think I told you that I love Helene Hanff?! I'm old enough that I read her book first - my mother had heard about it and read it and then I read the book. And I adore the movie too. One of the few times I think they got it very right - although having gotten to see interviews with the real Helene Hanff on TV, Anne Bancroft is much more elegant and the real HH much more crusty.
I've also had the pleasure of reading Duchess of Bloomsbury Street and also a third book of hers, Underfoot in Show Business (title?) - it's been a long time since I read Underfoot, can't remember how much I liked it, or not.
I really really wanted to love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (such a fun title) but I'm completely with you, it was a pleasant read but not much more.
Wishing you the loveliest of weekends!

Jenny said...

Yes, I need to read "Underfoot" and yes, it certainly does appear we are likeminded in our interests. No wonder I like you so much...hee hee.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Ooh, I love adding more books to my To Read list. Thank you Jenny!

Jenny said...

Rebecca...what a wonderful surprise! Thank you for the follow and for stopping for a visit. I am honored. Enjoy the books and Happy bloggin'to you.

Sally Annie Magundy said...

Hi Jenny!
What's that saying? Like likes like? (did I totally mess that up?!)
You're a sweetie and a kindred soul sister. ;)
Wishing you a great week!


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