Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Club Report: What We Thought of 84 Charing Cross Road

This past week at book club we discussed 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Many of our members had not read (or heard of) it before. So it was fun for me to see what they all thought of this quaint little book!

A quick summary for those who haven't read it: It's simply a bunch of letters that a book lover in America wrote to a book seller in England. Some of his family got involved in the writing, as well as some of the other workers in the shop. They wrote for twenty years (from about 1949 to 1969) and created quite the relationship.

I for one, love this book and find it's simplicity refreshing. The love of books that's felt throughout it is also really fun. I laughed out loud, and I cried. It's a wonderful book.

Here's some random reactions from our book club discussion:

  • One major lesson we felt to be learned was don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today! Live your dreams NOW before it's too late... go to England to visit your friends! Take that trip! Write that book! Start that adventure!
  • Many of us wanted more, it was bothersome to know there were missing letters.
  • Learning about the rations in England after WWII was interesting and it was fun to see how she responded by sending food... interesting strange food.
  • We thought she was funny, but sometimes a little bit obnoxious too.
  • We, most of us anyway, mourn the lost art of letter writing. Can email create this same connection? A pretty good discussion ensued. We decided that sometimes, it can.
  • Another discussion: Can you create a bond and connection with someone faraway that you've never met? With several bloggers in our midst, I think you know what our answer was to THAT!
  • Most people just liked the book okay, some LOVED it, and some said, "it was better than I expected."
  • We learned that the movie is pretty boring, but wondered about the play. Anyone know?
  • We found it interesting that she is famous not for all the many other projects she worked on, but this simple little letter compilation.
  • We, most of us, enjoyed the England love. It truly makes you want to go there and walk down Charing Cross Road.
For more fun stuff, here's a site that shows all the people mentioned in the book and pictures of the book shop. And this Wikipedia site lists all the books mentioned. Most of them, I've never heard of. I guess Helen Hanff and I are not book bosom buddies.

Have you read this book? And what do you think?

Up next for book club in March is This Is My Words.


  1. I saw the movie years ago and I really liked it. However, I hadn't read the book -- maybe I wouldn't have liked the movie so much if I'd read the book first. I didn't know there were letters missing, makes me wonder why.

  2. I had forgotten about this book. I have been meaning to read it for a while now! Will have to try and work it in this year...

  3. This one looks interesting to me. I just finished These Is My Words last month and loved it.

  4. I loved this one, though I did find her obnoxious at times. Sounds like it made for good discussion!

  5. I've had this book on my shelf for years, guess I'll dust it off try it next Sunday!

    I loved how you share the ideas and opinions of your group. Now I know what a fly-on-the-wall feels like! Thanks for sharing!

    You will love These Is My Words. Nancy Turner, the author is from our area and I met her in the Arizona Historical Society when she was doing research for the book. She's awesome and the story is a keeper. You will love the feisty Sarah Prine! Can't wait to read your book group report. Our group adored it!

  6. Our reading circle group here in Erfurt, Germany will be discussing the book tonight, so I will let you know soon what we thought. A short read (less than 2 hours) and makes you think about the last time you wrote a REAL letter (pen to paper).



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