84, Charing Cross Road

An enduring friendship.

A friendship that withstood the test
of time, began with a simple request.
”Dear Sirs”, an American author wrote
to a London antiquarian bookseller
enquiring about second-hand books
that were rare and worthy of note.
The letter that reached Frank Doel,
in 1949, was post-World War II,
a period in which Britain endured
austerity and shortage of food too.
With that missive a long lasting
and friendly association was secured.
The writer was from New York City
and went by the name of Helene Hanff.
Her letters to Frank were light and witty
and his, at first, were serious and formal.
But over twenty years of corresponding
the tone became warmer and cordial.
The entire staff of the shop joined in,
exchanging birthday gifts, good wishes
and presents on the festive season.
And as the time was passing so fast
she longed to visit London and friends
and say to them “We meet, at last!”.
But the decision was made by Fate.
Hanff postponed travelling to Britain
and did not come to Charing Cross Road
until the summer of 1971
but by that time she was too late
as Frank had died in 1968.
© Luigi Pagano 2019

© ionicus 2020
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A touching tale, Luigi. You can tell’em.
Cheers, Gerald.


Wonderful telling of a fine true story, Luigi. I remember the film (version) with Sir Anthony Hopkins in the main role, Frank, and Helen Hunt as the American woman? A fascinating, very low-key film rather like ‘Remains of the Day’, and what a long correspondence and business relationship they had, with the added, final poignancy that they never did get to meet. A great story from another clean, ordered world, the London of those wonderful post-war years that I remember with such affection, as you doubtlessly do too. Enjoyable read!
Regards, Trevor


Oh, that’s right, it was Anne Bancroft. By low-key, I mean progressing slowly with no sensational moments or violence. I shall have to read the book, as most film adaptations are rarely as good as the book. A good example of one that is, is Grahame Green’s ‘The End of the Affair’ directed by Neil Jordan, due in no small part to the beautiful piano music of Michael Nyman giving atmosphere. I’ve just read the book and the film seems to have portrayed it all superbly, perhaps it’s the other way round, book, then film, that disappoints?

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